Posts Tagged ‘church pianists’

Hymnprovising Tip for Church Pianists

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Here’s a quick tip that would make any church pianist sound much fuller when playing from the hymnal.

When improvising from the hymnal, the pianist can make the hymn sound fuller by playing 4 note chords in the right hand….allowing more space for the left hand to improvise.

“Like a River Glorious” is a great hymn to apply this idea…since the rhythm isn’t real busy…making it easier to maneuver.

The first two measures in the example below demonstrates the standard five-part style hymnplaying (3 notes in the right hand and 2 notes in the left hand).

The final two measures show the right hand playing an octave higher to allow room for the 4-note style in the right hand.  One of my teachers from years back taught me the idea of playing a phrase in one general area and then gradually climbing back down or up (whichever the case may be) for variety.

Next time, I’ll show you a fun way the right hand can climb back down to the middle of the piano for the next phrase of “Like a River Glorious”.




Free Arrangement for Church Pianists! Amazing Grace

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013


Introducing…a free piano arrangement of Amazing Grace for unison choir or congregation.  It’s nice to be able to sing parts but most congregations of small churches seem to sing unison.

Church pianists can enliven hymns such as Amazing Grace by playing with mucho enthusiasm!  I understand not every church pianist knows how to improvise from the hymnal.  It took a lot of practice for me to feel comfortable adding unseen notes while playing from the hymnal.

Improvising tip:  Grab an improvising idea from someone else’s arrangement and try applying to a similar congregational hymn with same time signature.

Stick with that one idea for a while until it becomes natural to use…then on to the next improvising idea!

Hope you enjoy this arrangement.  Since most people are very familiar with this hymn, I took more liberty with the piano accompaniment.

Warning:  This arrangement does not support the four-part style in the hymnal.

Question from a reader:

I love these ideas but at my church both piano and organ play. I find it hard to take any liberties since I am not playing alone. Any suggestions for those of us who would love to add flare to hymns but still have to keep the organist in mind?

Answer: (at least for this arrangement)  I will soon provide a free organ arrangement of this particular version of Amazing Grace.

Free PDF for Piano: Amazing Grace

Free PDF for Organ: Amazing Grace

Audio: [wp_eStore_audio_player src=”″]

Extra tip:  This arrangement could also be used as an offertory using the following suggestion:  Allow a flute or violin to play the vocal score since the piano accompaniment doesn’t contain enough melody.




Free Accompaniment Tip for Church Pianists

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

Church pianists find it an extra challenge when accompanying vocalists singing wordy hymns.  Hymns such as: In the Garden,  Wonderful Peace, Fill My Cup Lord,God Leads Us Along and No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus.

These wordy hymns are most effective when sung or played  in a more conversational tone to avoid a mechanical reading style often heard in young ones when they are first learning to read. How to achieve a more conversational sound?

In 4/4 time…beats one and three are naturally stressed.  Emphasizing these particular beats results in a more shapely tone…making the message flow in a more conversational tone.

Listen to the two accompaniment style excerpts in the video below to determine which style sounds more conversational.

“No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus”

*Editor notes:

Accompaniment pattern #1: I basically played every word of the song.

Accompaniment style #2: I used quarter note chords here and there to break up the  repeated eighth note patterns..allowing the singer more ebb and flow of rhythm.

Click here to download FREE PDF excerpt of “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus” for accompaniment style #2.

Special note:  I sang the excerpt(s) in A Major on the video (due to my vocal range but the free pdf is a half step higher in B flat Major.

I would have loved to share the entire song…but this particular hymn is copyrighted.  The “fair use” law allows me to share a small portion of a copyrighted song for educational purposes only.


Glissando Tips

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

One of my church pianist readers recently requested that I provide some helpful tips on how to play glissandos.

One of the trickiest technical moves in my How Great Thou Art  piano arrangement is the glissando found on page four.   (Shown below)


Glissando Tips

1.  Notice the  three tenuto (line marks) under the left hand in measure 29.  These marks are pointing out the melody for the words “…then sings my…”.  Emphasize the melody and keep the glissando volume in the background (little softer than left hand).

2. The right hand begins the glissando with the index finger immediately after the left hand plays the G octave with the first tenuto (line) mark.  (It happens to be the same G as the left thumb just finished playing in the G octave).

3. Start the glissando with your right hand index finger…flipping the right hand over after the index finger starts.  The index finger and 3rd finger will glide across the keys in an upside down, horizontal position.  Once the index finger begins…the third finger will carry the brunt of the notes as you glide upward.  The index finger will act more as a support and guide for the third finger.  Just remember….the third finger is longer so it naturally has better contact of the keys.

4.  Word of caution to church pianists:  Glide across keys in a lightweight; relaxed fashion to avoid sore fingers 🙂

Visual Tips for the Glissando in How Great Thou Art


Mother’s Day Song Suggestions for Church Pianists

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

My Mom

When you think of Mother’s Day songs…you think of songs that offer tribute to Mothers, right?

Well, why not consider songs of devotion to God that can be sung by a group of ladies or female solo? As mothers, we constantly strive to live a godly life. Why not sing about that devotion?

Here are a few suggestions for ladies’ ensemble: (Click on each song title to view music)

1.  The Shepherd Psalm by John Carter (Hope Publishing Co.)


2.  A Tender Heart by Ron Hamilton (Majesty Music)  Also available in: Patch the Pirate Praises 1

Audio for A Tender Heart

3.  By the Gentle Waters by Cindy Berry     Audio for Gentle Waters

(SATB  arrangement but beautiful words and melody; could be sung unison)

4.  Take My Heart by Roger Summers

5.  Be Thou My Vision (traditional; from hymnal) *Add flute melody in background for easy dressup

6.  Come Thou Fount (traditional; from hymnal) *I have a ladies’ two part acappella arrangement of this song to hopefully publish by the weekend.

When the Roll is Called Up Yonder (improvising idea)

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

All church pianists understand there are those hymns that just need a little dress-up to bring them to life!  One of those such hymns is When the Roll is Called Up Yonder. Why the need for a dress-up?  Because there are a lot of repeated chords throughout the entire hymn.  What can be done to make this hymn sound more interesting?  Replace the repetitive bass line with a simple improvising idea.


Click on the following song title to see this improvising idea put to use. The pattern can be seen in the first few measures.

When the Roll is Called Up Yonder (part of chorus)  Intermediate version

For those of you at a more advanced’ll find a free sample below of what I would play to accompany congregational singing. (I transferred the stepping down pattern to the right hand for the first phrase of the chorus.

When the Roll is Called Up Yonder (part of chorus) Advanced version


Piano Introductions: Part Two

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Have you discovered how it doesn’t always work to play the first and last phrase of a hymn for an introduction? A lot of church pianists have been asking me for help in the area of piano introductions.

Sometimes it works to just use phrases from the verse for the whole  introduction.  In today’s example, I share two ways of playing an introduction for “Wonderful Words of Life”.  Decide which example sounds best to you.  I prefer the first example because the melody follows a more logical flow as opposed to the second introduction.

Click here for: Piano Introductions (part two)

I do plan to share more introduction tips and examples!

Click here for: Piano Introductions (part one)


Piano Introductions: Part One

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

How long should a piano introduction be?  What part of the song do I play for the introduction?  

I hope the following video and free pdf sheet of piano introduction examples will benefit church pianists needing guidance in this area.

Free PDF Sheet: Piano-Introductions-Part-One 



The Church Pianist: Upcoming Article

Friday, January 7th, 2011

I just attended the smoothest wedding rehearsal and wedding ever!…my son’s 🙂

While flying home yesterday,  I began to list the things I observed in my son’s wedding rehearsal that helped create this seemingly, effortless event. 

 Many church pianists, like myself, occasionally find themselves in the position of wedding consultant/pianist/coordinator/etc. 

For this reason, I’ll share my wedding notes with you soon…in hopes that the list can be of help to other church pianists placed in the position of wedding assistant.

The Church Pianist: Free Christmas Piano Arrangements!

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

I have compiled several of my free Christmas piano arrangements under the ” Free Hymns Pdf” page for easier access. 

 Most church pianists are gearing up for Christmas; searching out Christmas piano arrangements. Hope these free arrangements are a help to your music ministry.

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