Do You Make Any Of These Mistakes In Your Gospel Piano Playing?
There are four main attitudes that hinder musicians from progressing in their abilities to play gospel music by ear. Let me explain...
Attitude #1: "Learning songs by myself is too difficult so I'd rather just get the chords from someone else..."
Relying on others to show us chords and progressions is one of the leading causes why we don't move to the next level in our playing. While we might sound, look, and play beautifully, the reality is that we don't understand anything we're playing. Sure enough, we might be playing some of the prettiest "2-5-1" progressions ever heard, but we lack substance ... knowledge ... and the know-how to advance to the next level.
Attitude #2: "Ok... I'll learn the song in 'Ab' major but I'd rather transpose it to all of the other keys using my keyboard..."
This is one of the biggest hindrances known not only to gospel musicians --- but to musicians in general. Why? Because every chord has multiple roles. By just playing in the key of "Ab" or "Eb," you've only used, for example, "Abmin9" or "Ebmin11" chords as it relates to those particular keys. But did you know that "Ebmin11" also has a role in the key of "Gb" or even the key of "Db" major? It's not that you have to learn a whole new way of playing --- YOU JUST HAVE TO TRANSFORM YOUR MIND TO THINK IN PATTERNS ... that's all.
Attitude #3: "I'll just learn new songs by pressing different notes and chords on my piano until it sounds right..."
"Guessing" may or may not work for you but I can say that it is far from the best method of learning new songs. And while it may sound funny, tons of musicians rely on this very technique to "play by ear" --- though I wouldn't call it exactly that. It is the absolute opposite of learning music theory and patterns and ultimately leads to frustration and exhaustion. In other words, you simply get tired of doing the same thing over and over again.
Attitude #4: "I'm a trained sight reader so I can survive in a church setting by getting the sheet music to all of the songs..."
This may work until there's either no sheet music for a particular song or until someone ends up improvising on a song without giving you prior notice. I would honestly say that in most church settings, the ability to play by ear is absolutely a must! To be quite frank with you, reading sheet music will only go so far --- especially if you're playing piano or organ in an uptempo, charismatic church. Rather, developing your ear and being on alert for sudden changes in a song will assure your "survivability" in a church setting.
For more tips and training, visit GospelKeys 101.
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