Category Archives: Music Director

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.


ForScore: Music App for iPad

Several of you have shown interest in how I use my iPad for the music service. Hopefully, this article will help explain the concept and how it works.

I am already so addicted (if I can use that word) to using my iPad for the hymns and I’ve only been using it for a little over a month. There are more possibilities to how I can use it in the music service, but I’m trying to learn carefully and not over-do it. The last thing I want to do is flub up the service because I don’t know what I’m doing.

Ok, with that being said, here is the process I use:

1. I downloaded the app ForScore from the iTunes Store. It isn’t free, but the $6.99 or so that you will spend will be so worth it. (If you look for the app on your iPhone, it won’t come up. It’s an app for iPad only, so you have to look for it on your iPad…makes sense.)

You may ask why I use ForScore? Well, it’s simple. My music director uses his iPad for the service and he uses ForScore. He’s the one who recommended it to me, so wha-la, that’s what I use. Plus, it makes much easier for sharing files…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

2. Unfortunately, ForScore doesn’t come with the hymns pre-loaded. I wish!!! So, the question that everyone wants to know, how do I get the songs on my iPad?

My music director scans the hymns from the hymnbook into PDF files (individually for each song). He then uploads them to Dropbox. (If you’re not familiar with Dropbox, you need to be. You can set up a free account and share/store files and access them anywhere.) Dropbox even has an app for the iPad!

We share the music folder on Dropbox. I pull the PDF files from Dropbox and open them in ForScore. Once you open them in ForScore, they are automatically saved. Nice. Our files are named by hymn number then the title (ie: 591 Have Thine Own Way).

NOTE: It is convenient to use the same app/program as my music director because you can email files from ForScore (in case a song doesn’t get added to Dropbox).

3. Once I have all the hymns stored in ForScore, I’m ready to make my setlist (like a playlist). I name my setlists by the date of service and AM/PM. I add my hymns for that service in the order they are listed on the order of service. If a song changes or the order changes I can easily rearrange the order of the songs.

Then I select the first song in the setlist and I’m ready to play!

4. This is where I absolutely LOVE using the iPad vs the hymnbook. The hymnbook is so big (at least ours is) and the pages are difficult to turn while transitioning to the next song. For example, we might sing 43 All Hail the Power and then have to transition to 772 When We All Get to Heaven. Do you know how cumbersome it is to flip/turn 700 pages while transitioning to the next key?

On the iPad with ForScore, you only have to tap the screen (on the right side of the screen) and it will turn to the next page. If the song has two pages, you will have to tap the left side of the screen to go back to the next verse…but that’s ok. I started out swiping the screen, which also worked, but then I discovered I could tap the screen and it worked just as well.

Aren’t you just a little curious to try it? Doesn’t it sound incredible?

Like I said before, there is a bit of a learning curve when first starting out, but take your time and practice with it. The pros definitely outweigh the cons! Speaking of cons, I will be doing an article here soon on some of the cons I’ve encountered so far (not many to be sure) and how to troubleshoot them.

I am loving all the comments and feedback you all are leaving on here and on Facebook! Don’t stop! I want to hear if you try ForScore, if you like it, if you hate it, all of the above. If you have a different method that works for you, I would love to hear that as well. We’re here to help each other provide a great music service for The Lord. Keep it up!

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!

Platform Logistics

How is your church platform set up? How well can you see the pulpit? Do you have enough room to sit comfortably on the bench?

These seemingly little details make a big difference. I played in one church where the piano faced an outside wall. My back was to the choir director – not the best situation!

My preference is to watch the faces or mouths of the people for whom I am accompanying. This way I can be sensitive to any catch breaths, tempo changes, etc. We have a digital piano in our church that sits farther back of the stage, making the angle difficult for accompanying. I have to be even more attentive when playing on the digital piano for this reason. It is important to be able to follow the performer.

Keep your area around the piano neat and organized! Music books stacked on the piano are distracting to the audience. Take your music with you when you leave the piano or set it down out of sight. Our pianos have shelves next to them for storing the hymnbooks and other music. These are relatively new additions and I love them already!

Do you have any tips for improving visualization at the piano? What methods do you use to keep your music organized?

Do You Have a Purpose?

“The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.” (Johann Sebastian Bach)

This profound quotation is the basis for my purpose for playing the piano. I love to sit and play for enjoyment and relaxation, but my purpose of church music is three-fold.

  1. Glorification of God – Music should not be performed to bring praise or glory to oneself. We were created to bring glory to God, and we have the privilege of doing this through music. Our motivation for presenting music should be that God would be glorified with our presentation, song selection, and heart attitude. We should strive for excellence in our music program because God is pleased when we do our best for Him.
  2. Edification of fellow believers – Musicians have the great responsibility of conveying the thoughts and purpose of the special music to the audience. The audience is looking for encouragement from the service. Presentation, song selection, and heart attitude must be present and working together in order for a song to be a blessing to someone.
  3. Preparation of hearts to receive the Word of God – Every element of the music program is building to the climax of the preaching of God’s Word. The energy of the music service should build in such a way that the audience is excited for each new item on the program. When it is time for the message, the audience should feel refreshed, renewed, and excited for the preaching. The music service should energize Pastor to present the message that God has given him.

I challenge you to consider your own purpose of church music. What is your focus?