Category Archives: Hymn Playing

Missions Conference Music

Next week is our annual Missions Conference at church. The music for these services is obviously missions-oriented.

I love the music for Missions Conference. The choir songs are outstanding – “Be the One,” “Somebody Cares,” “I Will Go,” and others.

The traditional hymns for missions are also great songs, but they are not my best to play. Probably because I don’t play them all that often. However, sometimes we don’t sing the “traditional” missions songs.

We will see what hymns are picked this time.

Regardless of the hymns or choir songs or special music, our Missions Conference is just a special time of preaching and sharing from all the missionaries who attend.

We have a very sweet spirit in our church and that is evidenced by the love we show our missionaries.

I’m looking forward to another great Missions Conference.

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

Pedaling for Hymns

pedals1Pedaling is very fascinating to me.

I remember being told by a teacher to change the pedal every time a chord changed. That was very good, basic advice.

When playing traditional gospel songs (ie: Power in the Blood), you will have your three basic/primary chords: I, IV, and V.

If you apply the basic principle of pedaling for every chord change, you won’t pedal overly much.

But if you add anything remotely extra, like any stepwise in either hand or even changing bass octaves within a measure (like moving from Bb to D on a Bb chord), you will want to lift the pedal more often.

I always try to listen for any “muddling” and negate that by lifting the pedal more frequently.

Any stepwise I usually “flutter” the pedal or “half-pedal”. Just a quick lift to clear the air.

Overall, I would rather have less pedal when playing hymns. If they are a little dry that’s ok. A heavy pedal just causes muddles and blurs everything together.

Oh, and while I’m on the subject, basic pedaling technique includes the following:

1. Heel on the floor (always, at all times)

2. Play then pedal (have the pedal up when playing the first note(s) of a new chord, then put the pedal down)

Anything you would add? I love hearing your comments!

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

Falling Asleep at the Piano

No, the title isn’t referring to my falling asleep at the piano, as in my mind going to sleep. Although, I’ve been tired enough sometimes that I felt like I could fall asleep…

Anyway, what I’m referring to is my leg (my left leg) falling asleep while I’m playing. It happened this morning during the service, and I had to move my foot around to wake it back up.

This has happened to me several times at this piano. Mostly it happens during orchestra practice or another rehearsal, but this time it was during the actual service.

Thankfully, I was able to get the blood flowing again before I had to walk down the stairs.

My question is…why is this happening? It’s never happened before on/at any other piano I’ve played on?

Maybe the height of the bench is different?

Maybe I have my leg back at a bad angle?

Whatever the reason, I don’t like it. The feeling (or lack of feeling) is discomforting.

Why do you think this happens? Has it ever happened to you?

Help me out, please! I welcome your suggestions!

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

Keeping Piano Lessons Fun

I just finished giving piano lessons, so I’m still thinking back over how they went. (The students did great, by the way; it’s the teaching part I’m thinking about.)

I always want my students to love music and love playing the piano. I try to make the lessons fun, too. I know that scales and chords can’t be all that exciting by themselves, so I try to explain and give examples of how that element is used in music. (say church music, for example)

I’ve explained to students before how inversions play such an important role in hymnplaying. They look at me like I’m kidding. But then I play a hymn and show them what I mean. Then I say something like, “See? Chords and inversions are so cool! You can do so much with them!”

You can see their eyes light up, either with understanding or amusement at their teacher. But that’s ok. I don’t mind. When they get up to play a hymn in church and use an inversion, they will see how much fun it is.

Our excitement in lessons tonight was me killing a HUGE mosquito with my shoe (while jumping up and hitting the wall) and recording a song using my iPhone.

Yep, fun stuff! (You should try it sometime!)

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

Using Transitions in the Worship Service

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned on Facebook that I was working on transitions for the upcoming Sunday worship service. I received many questions and comments about how I use transitions and what exactly did I mean by them.

I will attempt to explain here…

First of all, I should let you know that our church likes to have music playing almost at all times. Meaning, there is no empty or quiet space between songs. A typical order of service will have 2-3 worship songs, then a Guest Welcome, then the choir special, then 2 more songs. The piano does not play during the Guest Welcome. That’s it.

(Thankfully, I have the songs loaded on my handy-dandy iPad with the songs in order. See more about that topic here.)

Ok, so, this particular Sunday, the first two songs were “Majesty” (in Bb)  and “All Hail the Power” (in G). when I received the order of service the Tuesday before the Sunday, I immediately began to think about how to transition between these two songs. Going from Bb to G is…well…weird. Plus, both songs are such powerful and big songs that I was hesitant to do my usual play-the-minor-ii-chord-to-the-V-chord.

Yawn. Boring.

I figured the music director would be speaking a little bit between songs, so I needed to fill that time with something interesting enough that it wouldn’t bring down the energy that was built from the first song.

I couldn’t think of anything. Friday night I sat down at the piano and tried to figure something out. All I could come up with was a 4-bar interlude that used the ii chord to the V, without it being a “basic” introduction. I didn’t think that would give the music director enough time to speak between songs. I wanted at least 8 measures.

Grr…this shouldn’t be this difficult, right?

I didn’t know what to do. Nothing was coming to me.

Then, that Sunday morning while I was getting ready, it hit me. I could use a common note to go from Bb to G.

Here’s what I did…after the end of “Majesty,” I repeated the first line (Majesty, worship His majesty) in Bb. That put me on an Eb chord with G as the melody note. Then I played the same line again in the key of G, starting with a G chord (using the note G as the common note).

Ok…that took up 8 measures of time, and put me in the key of G for “All Hail the Power.” Now I was in the key of G on the IV chord – C. I just walked my bass down to B and walked my RH up to D and played the last three measures of “All Hail the Power” for the introduction.

All in all, 12 measures of interlude. Just enough time for the music director to say his “say.” Seriously, it was just enough time. No more. No less. God is good.

Now, I still did a “basic” introduction, when I really wanted to lead up to the V. But it worked better with the basic introduction, because the people at least had some time to recognize the song.

Also, Bb to G would normally be going down in the modulation, but since I used the line in “Majesty” that went up in the melody and then kept the common note, the modulation actually sounded like I went up instead of down.

I know this was a little tedious, but I wanted to really be specific in explaining this transition.

I will try to address more transitions and modulations in days to come. Until then, let me know your thoughts, questions, etc.

Playing with an iPad

How many of you like change? If you’re like me, change is not my favorite. But a couple weeks ago, I took the “change” plunge…

Our music director started using his new iPad to direct the music for the services. From my place behind him in choir, I was fascinated that all he had to do was seemingly tap the screen to turn the pages.

I had originally wanted to get the iPad mini, but I was advised that the regular size had better resolution for music. So I saved up my money and got one. Fun stuff! Now I had to learn how to use it for church.

I bought the app forscore, which allowed me to put the songs in a playlist.

My music director sent me the hymns in PDF format, which I opened in forscore. Once I had the playlist (setlist) ready, all I had to do was swipe the screen and it would turn the page. Even if it was a new song, I just had to swipe the screen.

The first Sunday I used my iPad, I was instantly addicted. The benefits are awesome…

No more turning/handling/lugging around the ginormous hymn book. It is so heavy!

I can see now over the piano music stand! Before, the hymn book was taller than the stand and I had to strain my neck to see the music director. I’m on the shorter side, so I still have to strain a little.

Since I’m on a rotation schedule, I don’t play for every service. But I’m looking forward to trying more with my iPad, like choir songs and special music accompaniment. If I’m really brave, maybe I’ll use it for an offertory!

Do you have an iPad that you use for the music service? I would love to hear from you!

Introducing New Music

Last night, we introduced a theme chorus for our Missions Conference to the congregation. The song leader sang through the chorus once to let the congregation hear the tune. Then the congregation joined as he sang the chorus again twice through.

I knew that no one in the congregation had heard the song before (because I knew the song had only been written a few weeks before the conference)! Since the congregation unconsciously follows the piano, it was important for me to bring out the melody while they sang. Once they become more familiar with the song, I will branch out and add more “accompaniment.” For now, I need to remember that they still need the support of the melody on the piano.

Keep the following in mind when introducing a new song in church:

1.       Keep the tempo at a moderate speed. The congregation is trying to learn a new melody and new words at the same time – make it as easy as possible for them.

 

2.       Emphasize the melody. This is always important, but even more so if the congregation only has the words of the song. Their ears are relying on the piano to give them the tune.

 

3.       Listen to the congregation. Get a feel of how quickly they pick up the song. Adjust your playing (tempo, style, etc.) accordingly.

Musicians enjoy learning new music, and I am sure the congregation feels the same way. Do your part as the accompanist and make the learning process as smooth as possible. Follow the steps listed above and you will be able to add your own accompaniment in no time!

Transposing “In the Moment”

Transposition is a basic fundamental for all church accompanists. I am often asked to transpose a song to better fit a singer’s range. Usually, though, I have time to practice the chords or even write the chords on the music. Every now and then I have to transpose on the spot, which is what happened in this morning’s service.

During the invitation, I started playing the song using the key in the hymnbook. My song leader started to sing the first verse. The song was “Great is Thy Faithfulness” which does get somewhat high for a solo. Coming to the end of the verse, he motioned for me to transpose the song to a lower key. My mind frantically scrambled to think of what key I would go to and what chords I would need to use to get there. Thankfully, the pastor said a few words in between verses which allowed me to transition the song to the lower key.

I will confess that I did not play the song perfect in the new key. But I kept the bass notes correct, played the melody in the right hand, and just kept going. At least my song leader did not have to strain to sing the rest of the song!

Have you had any “in the moment” experiences? I would love to hear them!

‘Twas the Night Before Sunday

Have you ever been running late on Sunday morning and can’t remember what music you need to take or who’s singing that service? Yes, this has happened to me. I’ll get to church feeling like I’m already running behind. Usually, that’s the day that someone calls in sick or half the choir is out with a flu bug.

I try to get my heart and mind prepared the night before. Here’s a sample checklist:

·         Practice special music – put music in music bag

·         Practice offertory – put music in music bag

·         Practice hymns, including introductions

·         Practice choir music – put music in music bag

·         Look over order of service

·         Put music bag near the door (so I don’t have to look for it in the morning)

This list is not exhaustive, but you get the idea. Lastly, get a good night’s sleep! Go to bed early. I find I make more mistakes playing when I’m tired. I can’t give the necessary support needed when I can’t even concentrate!

Preparation is the key! The Lord deserves our best and we should be prepared to do no less for Him.

Do you have any preparation suggestions? I would love to hear from you!