The Piano in Contemporary Worship, Part 3

Last month I posted two sessions from the pre-conference workshop I taught at WorshipGod11 on the Piano in Contemporary Worship (Part 1 and Part 2). We finally finished editing the third session. This one took a little more time to edit because people were regularly walking past the window of the door in the video, which is a bit distracting. My good friend Dave Mackenzie performed his video wizardry and edited the movement out.

In this session I deal with many of the specific questions I’ve been asked over the years. Those include:

  • chord coloring
  • inversions
  • playing hymns
  • developing your chord vocabulary
  • introductions
  • transitions
  • playing behind someone speaking
  • modulations.

Along the way I also talk about some of the musical influences that have shaped the way I play.

You can download the outline for all three sessions here. Because Part 3 is close to 90 minutes long, and you may not have time to watch this in one sitting, I’ve provided time markers below for the different sections.

Piano in Contemporary Worship, Part 3 from Sovereign Grace Churches on Vimeo.

00:00 Chord coloring
Open 5ths
Major 7
Major 9
Hymns – Melody driven
Hymns – Feel-driven
Developing your ear for new chords
Developing a new chord vocabulary, my influences
Playing behind someone speaking
1:19:20 Q&A

If you missed it, I recently posted MP3 downloads and outlines for many of the other seminars at WorshipGod11 here and here.

Go to Part 1.

Go to Part 2.

33 Responses to The Piano in Contemporary Worship, Part 3

  1. bunny anderson January 8, 2012 at 12:20 AM #

    do we have a real piano???

  2. Becky January 8, 2012 at 4:17 AM #

    Thank you so much for posting this. I’m going to be watching it and learning from it for keyboard in my church. Looking forward to learning new things and putting them into practice. Appreciate you making this available.

  3. Becky January 8, 2012 at 4:50 AM #

    One question I’m wondering about as I started watching this is if this type of keyboard playing is for when you have a full band or not? Is what he is showing us for when you are the band, or for when you have other instruments playing with you who are also carrying the rhythm and adding to the song as well?

  4. Steve Martin January 9, 2012 at 5:40 PM #

    I want to thank you very much for your wonderful instruction. It’s my desire to be used by God to play, write, and arrange music for His glory. Being financially strapped right now, it’s not feasible for me to go back to school for more studies, so it is such a blessing to have access to this.
    Great teaching!

    Steve Martin
    Mebane, NC

  5. Jim Pemberton January 10, 2012 at 2:23 PM #

    Great stuff!

    Regarding playing where people are singing hymns by the part, I have filled in at pianist-driven services where the pianist wrote every chord down for the guitars who had a time trying to change every beat.

    My method was to analyze the structure and determine which of the chords can be easily heard by the congregation as passing chords and eliminate those from the guitar charts instructing them not to drive on those beats, but to drive on the downbeats of the chords. Then I would fill in on harmonics that aided the congregants who wanted to harmonize. I would also take advantage of the typical “alternate last verse” pattern and write something different that the band could kick on a little bit where the congregation would understand to sing only melody.

    I’ve also played with amateurish guitarists and no bassist in sight where I could take standard chords and run alternates simply by changing the bass on the fly. (One bassist I used to play with could “read” my left hand and play along, so I would put him behind me to my left and we would take off.)

  6. Jim Pemberton January 10, 2012 at 3:49 PM #

    There’s one chord you missed. It’s cheesy if overused, and often is. But it’s a staple of gospel music, particularly Southern and Black. I call it the “gospel chord”. It’s a dominant 11th where the 3d and 5th are all but ignored. Essentially you end up with a subdominant in the top over a dominant in the bass or, put another way, a subdominant “Amen” combined with a standard dominant cadence. It doesn’t work in every part of a song, but in my neck of North Carolina, everyone’s ears perk up when they hear it as though to think, “We’re going to sing a good gospel song now!”

  7. Paul Ellsworth January 10, 2012 at 11:53 PM #

    Thanks for posting these and the other Worship God 2011 videos (and 2010), Bob. I’ve been listening to the leader-oriented ones (but including musician-specific ones) and will be having a few of “my” instrumentalists listen to applicable ones as well.

    I’m in California, so the WG conferences are a bit of a trip for me – especially since I have a full time software engineering job that is not at my church ;)

    We appreciate the work you and others at SGM do.

    Incidentally, I went to school with most of Enfield, and had music classes with a lot of them. Small world :-o

    Paul Ellsworth
    Trinity Bible Church
    Morgan Hill, CA

  8. Jennifer January 11, 2012 at 12:41 PM #

    This is great. A lot of tools to think about, work on, and use.

    Any chance you have another series for how to play ‘keyboard’ – and by that I mean other sounds like strings, organ, etc. You can’t play those sounds exactly like you would piano and I could use some tips :)

    • Bob Kauflin January 11, 2012 at 1:02 PM #

      Jennifer, thanks for the suggestion.

  9. Daniel January 13, 2012 at 9:58 PM #

    Hey Bob,

    I have thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated your series on piano in contemporary worship from WorshipGod11. Thanks for the tips and tools. Much of this was very familiar to me, but I often find it difficult to put into words. Thanks for sharing and encouraging.


    • Bob Kauflin January 13, 2012 at 10:08 PM #

      Daniel, glad it was helpful. And yes, I don’t think there’s a lot new here, but it was my first attempt to actually systematize things. Thanks for your encouragement.

  10. Troy January 19, 2012 at 4:40 AM #

    Bob, thanks so much for taking the time to do this…and to post them for us. I appreciate how you’re always so thoughtful about everything you share. What a wonderful gift to the worship community. Love your sense of humor, too!

  11. Susan February 1, 2012 at 12:24 AM #

    Hi Bob,

    I’ve been really encouraged by these videos, thanks!

    A bit of a strange question, though. Do you store all your lead sheets in ringbinders? Do the pages tend to sag on the non-ring side? (I’ve been given the monumental task of organising the shambles which is our church’s music.)

    • Bob Kauflin February 1, 2012 at 2:41 AM #

      Susan, thanks for your encouragement. Over the years I haven’t found that pages sag on the non-ring side, unless you have too may songs for a notebook. We print off songs each Sunday, and keep a smaller folder of songs for more spontaneous use.

  12. Levi Gill February 13, 2012 at 3:49 AM #

    Thank you for posting these videos (and keeping up this blog, while we’re at it); my wife and I have benefitted from them as we grow in this ministry.

    Were guitar sessions recorded and are you planning on making them available as well? Especially in regards to “Chord Voicings and Concepts for Guitars” by Patrick Anderson. I’ve been listening to it carefully but some of it is lost on me without the video.

    • Bob Kauflin February 13, 2012 at 5:11 AM #

      Levi, we recorded guitar conversations on video and will be posting it soon, but we were unable to record the voicings seminar.

  13. Karen March 24, 2012 at 2:57 AM #

    Dear Mr. Kauflin,

    I finally had enough alone time to watch the third video. Sometimes I wonder why I keep taking piano lessons, but when I hear some of your music it just puts joy in my heart and I know why I persist. I hope the videos are available for a while. I’ll have to try each concept and work it through and watch them again. You are able to surround the words in songs with a glory that touches my heart and must touch God’s as well. Thanks for sharing some of your gifts!

  14. Bob Kauflin March 24, 2012 at 3:33 AM #

    Karen, the videos will be around as long as YouTube exists. Thanks for your encouraging words. Keep practicing!

  15. Elisabeth Baldwin June 29, 2012 at 11:09 PM #

    I got to meet you in Starbucks on Monday in Palm Springs. I appreciated being able to thank you for your ministry. Now I thank you again for posting the videos from this session. I’ve learned so much and I’m looking forward to being able to use them in leading my church in praising Jesus. Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom with us!

    • Bob Kauflin June 30, 2012 at 12:24 PM #

      Great meeting you, Elisabeth! Glad the videos were a help!

  16. New Year Sermons August 5, 2012 at 5:26 AM #

    I appreciate the detailed song structure and arrangement you put up with the video. Great post!

  17. Caleb Abernathy August 7, 2012 at 9:26 PM #

    Hey Bob,

    Thank you for these videos; they are very helpful. Did they get taken down? I can’t seem to find them.

  18. Caleb Abernathy August 8, 2012 at 2:41 PM #

    Thank you! I truly thank God for you and resources provided through Sovereign Grace Music. Christ has been magnified in the minds, hearts, and actions of many as a result of your labor.

  19. Travis Clifton June 17, 2013 at 2:27 AM #

    I immidiatly sent this to my four keyboard players. This directly dealt with so many things we have talked about. I just learned to much.

    Thank You

    Travis Clifton

  20. james August 10, 2013 at 8:53 PM #

    These videos were phenomenal. Thank you so much this was exactly what I was looking for.

  21. R4n3sh September 5, 2013 at 10:23 AM #

    I’ve always wanted to be able to play the accompaniment and sing…. instead of playing the melody of the entire song.

    Great video. Thanks. Will be watching it a few times. :)

  22. Kristine June 27, 2016 at 3:57 AM #

    Hello Mr. Kauflin!
    Just a quick question- what is the model of the keyboard you are using here? Or do you have any suggestions on keyboards to use for the worship setting and simultaneously for in home practice use? Thank you and God bless!

    • Bob Kauflin June 28, 2016 at 1:17 PM #

      Kristine, I’ve found the Yamaha P-120 to be a reliable electric piano. Anything by Roland or Yamaha that you can afford will probably be great.


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