Posts Tagged ‘pianist’

All in the Life of a Church Pianist

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Black notes with movement lines

Just thought I’d share an incident that happened last night at church…

I’m surprised my church hasn’t fired me from being one of their pianists!   😉
I’m SO forgetful! ….like playing the wrong song intro for choir opener….and then my son, David, (who happens to be the choir director) looks at me with a big smirky smile and says for all to hear….”that’s the choir special.”
“Oh yeah…” I say.

Oh well…at least we could laugh about it… (including the whole congregation)   🙂

                            Anybody else have a similar experience?

Pianist with Small Hands: Inspiring Article & Video!

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Even though I’m not a small handed pianist…I sometimes experience the feeling of having small hands due to challenging passages in music.  While in high school I would always roll a 10th in the left hand.  However…after playing a 10th with a gentle “rolled” movement over time….I found that I had stretched my left hand span and soon began playing solid 10ths!

While researching pianists with small hands, I came across the following inspiring article and video!

Click here to read how this small handed pianist overcame his limitation before hearing him in the video below:

The Love of God (alternative fill-ins)

Monday, August 18th, 2014

I know…not all church pianists have big hands like Rachmaninoff!  With that in mind…I created alternative fill-ins for the runs in The Love of God advanced piano solo that I just published a couple days ago.

I hope these alternative fill-ins will be more user-friendly for those with small hands.  The whole piece is really written for a pianist with large hands but maybe those of you with smaller hands can adapt this arrangement with these alternative fill-ins.

Click here to download alternative fill-ins

 

The-Love-of-God-alternative-runs

 

Training Others to be a Church Pianist…

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

 

Closeup  Piano Keys

I know other church pianists would agree that it’s so important to be training other pianists in the church to become church pianists or simply to fill in while other pianists are out of town.

At our church, we have  a couple college male students who commute to our church..one of which helps us out on the piano, among many other areas.  There are actually a total of three pianists available:  Sunshine, Hunter (college student) and myself. We rotate on a monthly basis to allow each one of us ample opportunity to serve.

I’m usually out of town at least 6 times during the school year calendar. To provide extra experience for Hunter, I’m having him play second piano along with me when I accompany instrumental specials for offertory. This opportunity allows him to learn the art of accompanying with an “on hands” approach.  (A lot of “give and take” in rhythm occurs when accompanying someone to sing or play their instrument.)

Hunter also plays second piano for congregational singing on Sunday nights and main piano on Wednesday nights giving him a chance to play introductions on his own. He has also used the congregational notebook I’m creating (which was destroyed in our church flood)..another story. He says the congregational notebook was a great help to him.

I can’t wait to start creating the congregational notebook again! I do have some of the songs in the computer…but most were not in the computer due to me accidentally deleting the original files on my computer about a year ago…(which was also a about a year’s worth of music…ugh)

Hunter has progressed by leaps and bounds!  I’m so excited to see how the Lord is preparing him for future ministries.  I’m also honored that the Lord has allowed me to be a part of his training.  Unfortunately, we only have him one more year since he’ll be graduating.

It seems God has allowed our church to be a training post for young male college students training in the area of music ministry and children’s ministries over the past (at least six years).  We’ve been SO blessed to be a part of this important training process.

 

 

Wilds Music Conference (Piano Duet Previews)

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

This will be one of several videos I’ll share from my recent trip to the annual Wilds Music Conference. I had not planned on videoing the sessions…thinking they were being done by someone professionally.  So…you will have to put up with my amateur recordings 🙂 The first part of Hymnplaying Master Class on Tuesday consisted of an open discussion on the benefits of piano duets…even with a few composer tips from Faye and Duane on writing quality piano duets. I’ll start with the benefits of playing piano duets: *Allows time to focus on basic techniques with easier playing passages…such as phrasing, pedaling, dynamic balance between two players, etc. *Prepares pianist to think and play like an accompanist.  For example, both pianists have to keep melody dominant throughout.  The pianist without melody part must remain in the background (so to speak)…allowing the melody to be heard. *Playing piano duets can improve the pianist’s sense of rhythm.  Teaches them to play different rhythms against the other player.  Such as: one pianist may play triplets while the other is playing straight eighths. (fun! fun!) The pianists are forced to play the correct rhythm if they are to stay together. *Encourages teamwork!

Now…on to several composer tips in writing piano duets:

*Stack duet parts on one page so both pianists are aware of the full picture. *Try the duet with another pianist to check for hand collisions (I speak from experience on this one)    😉 *Avoid writing in excessive extreme registers (real low or high).  Too high gives the primo a “tinty” or “empty” sound.  Writing primo section more near the middle of the piano gives the piece a more balanced, pleasing tone.  Playing too low will give the duet a “cloudy/muddled” tone.

Piano duets on this video:

O Come All Ye Faithful from: “O Come All Ye Faithful” by Nathan Arnold

I Need Thee Every Hour from: “Standing on the Promises” by Nathan Arnold

Saved! Saved! from:  “Like a River Glorious” by Rebecca Bonam

Dwelling Beulah Land from: ?  (I think it was a Rebecca Bonam duet…not sure)

Other Piano Duet Book List:

Immortal Invisible  by Dan Forest

Crown Him Lord of All by Dan Forest

Joy to the World by Rebecca Bonam (piano solo book with three duets!)

Tip:  Don’t forget those duets in the back of your piano solo books you may have 🙂

*The above book titles are clickable links that carry you to BJU Press.  However, these books are no longer available through BJU Press.  Go to Lorenz  to purchase them. (or try Ebay or Amazon)

 

How to Add Chord Substitutions to Hymns: Lesson One

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

I absolutely love adding chord substitutions to hymns! Chord substitutions add extra color and variety to gospel songs which normally contain infrequent chord changes.

Would you like to learn how to revitalize hymns like “Revive Us Again”?  This particular hymn uses the same chord for at least four measures in a row!

Listen to the following audio of “Revive Us Again” with chord substitutions.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

So…what does the pianist need to know in order to add chord substitutions?

Let’s take one step at a time!

What Every Pianist Should Know BEFORE Adding Chord Substitutions:

1.  A major scale is made up of 8 notes.  For example, the C Major scale is made up of the following eight notes:  CDEFGABC

2.  So,  each note of the scale is numbered one through eight.  For example, C is one, D is two, etc.  Now…create a three note chord (triad) on each note of the scale.  Play CEG together.  We call this the one chord because it’s built on the first note of the C scale. Now play DFA together.  Yes, you’re playing the two chord in the key of C.  Finish playing the rest of the C scale based triads until you reach the following C.

Here is a picture of what you should have played so far:  C scale and then the C scale chords (triads).  *Notice, the chords are numbered with the Roman numeral system.  The upper case roman numeral indicates major chord, the lower case roman numeral indicates minor chord.  For you theory buffs, I left out the diminished symbol for the vii chord….will explain that later.

Scale-and-Triads-resized-NEW

You have learned the first foundational tool needed for adding chord substitutions.  Application: Play the above scale and chords in the keys of G and F Major for ample reinforcement.  * I chose easier scales for a reason….let’s keep life simple for now 😉

Hope this lesson has been clear thus far.  Please feel free to ask any questions!

Just be patient with yourself and learn this basic step towards colorful playing!  I’ll explain more in the next post.

Funeral Collection for Church Pianist: Update

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Funeral-Collection-Image

I have been grabbing my rare spare moments….trying to finish the “funeral collection” for church pianists!

I hope to complete it by no later than mid-March.  All the arrangements except for one have been entered in Finale.  Now the finishing touches begin such as: key changes between each song; dynamics,visible lyrics for each song to help the church pianist focus on the message of each song. Each arrangement in the funeral collection can also stand alone as an offertory.

Each piece is written in (hopefully) a simplistic yet artistic style…making it easier for the average pianist to prepare with minimal practice.  Most of the songs are in easy keys such as: C, F and G Major with the exception of at least two in the key of E flat Major.

The funeral collection will consist of at least fifteen minutes playing time.

Looking forward to publishing this collection soon!

Church Pianist Tip: Rock of Ages with “Weighty Chords”

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Recently, I’ve been working on an arrangement of “Rock of Ages”.  The introduction contains what I call “weighty chords”…chords with three or more notes.  Thus, the following tip…

Scenario: A pianist sees a chord with three or more notes…(brain computes)…HEAVY touch!  Your brain thinks….I can’t possibly mash all those notes down at once without attacking them 😉   Word of caution:  Relax and apply gentle even pressure as though you’re lightly kneading dough… to avoid a “chunky” or “weighted” sound…especially when the full chords occur on the weak beats.

For example, in 4/4 time, the 1st and 3rd beats are naturally accented. Therefore the 2nd and 4th beats are weaker. In 3/4 time…only the first beat of each measure receives the accent. Why? To produce a more shapely rhythm and to avoid a mechanical/laboured sound.

The following excerpt is from an arrangement that will be included in a “Funeral Collection” which I hope to finish within the next several months. Notice the full chords in the left hand. I will give a brief demonstration of a suggested way to interpret these chords…fighting against the natural tendency of “heavy hand” treatment.

Click here for: video clip of following example

Rock-of-Ages-full-chord-treatment

The Church Pianist: Inspirational Video!

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

My son just shared this inspirational video with me of an unusual pianist. I just had to pass it along.

By the end of this video, we could all ask ourselves, “So…what excuse do I have for not practicing?”

Now, to a special pianist…

The Church Pianist: Accompanying the Vocalist

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Accompanying the vocalist is so different from playing for congregational singing.  For the most part, a steady rhythm is maintained for congregational singing.

Not so for accompanying the vocalist. I would encourage all church pianists to sing along mentally as you play.  Doing so will prevent the pianist from rushing the vocalist.  So many vocalists over the years have expressed their concern over pianists that rush their singing…not allowing them time to breathe and freely interpret the hymn.  It’s so easy to do!  Think about it…the pianist doesn’t have to physically breathe at the end of a sentence…so he or she just moves right along…forgetting that the poor vocalist would like to breathe!  I know…I’ve been guilty many times of this very thing 🙂

Just focus on the message of the hymn and allow the singer to lead you.  I understand some vocalists feel more comfortable following the pianist.  Please encourage them to take the lead once they have learned the song; allowing them more freedom of interpretation.

In the future, I hope to provide a video with helpful tips for accompanying the vocalist.

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