Posted By: James Koerts

Be Still My Soul

Level: Early Advanced Pages: 4 Delivery: Instant digital download (PDF) via email

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Heaven Piano Collection

Level: Early Advanced Pages: 48 Delivery: Instant digital download (PDF) via email Preview pages here. Titles include: I Am Bound for the Promised Land, Face to Face, I Shall Know Him, When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder, Marching to Zion, O That Will Be Glory, Sweet By and By, When I Can Read My […]

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I Am Bound for the Promised Land

Level: Early Advanced Pages: 4 Delivery: Instant digital download (PDF) via email

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Face to Face

Level: Early Advanced Pages: 4 Delivery: Instant digital download (PDF) via email

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I Shall Know Him

Level: Early Advanced Pages: 6 Delivery: Instant digital download (PDF) via email

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When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder

Level: Early Advanced Pages: 5 Delivery: Instant digital download (PDF) via email

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Marching to Zion

Level: Early Advanced Pages: 5 Delivery: Instant digital download (PDF) via email

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O That Will Be Glory

Level: Early Advanced Pages: 4 Delivery: Instant digital download (PDF) via email

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Sweet By and By

Level: Early Advanced Pages: 6 Delivery: Instant digital download (PDF) via email

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When I Can Read My Title Clear

Level: Early Advanced Pages: 5 Delivery: Instant digital download (PDF) via email

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He the Pearly Gates Will Open

Level: Late Intermediate Pages: 3 Delivery: Instant digital download (PDF) via email

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When We All Get to Heaven

Level: Early Advanced Pages: 4 Delivery: Instant digital download (PDF) via email

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All Creatures of Our God and King (2018)

Level: Early Advanced Pages: 5 Delivery: Instant digital download (PDF) via email

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Praise In Exultation

A joyous medley of three hymns of praise: Come, Thou Almighty King All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name O God, Our Help in Ages Past Level: Early Advanced Pages: 5 Delivery: Instant digital download (PDF) via email

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Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (2018)

Level: Late intermediate Pages: 5 Delivery: Instant digital download (PDF) via email

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O Worship the King

Level: Early Advanced Pages: 4 Delivery: Instant digital download (PDF) via email

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Creatively enhancing your worship service with these keyboard tricks

April 9, 2018 - By 

As a church pianist, I think it’s helpful from time to time to focus on your artistry. I know the church pianist serves a purpose, and it’s important for us to consider our role as servants in the church. (I do believe people are called to serve, and all Christians are “wired” with ways in which they serve the church. There is great value to servant-hood, and it’s a broad Scriptural principle.) But to maintain merely a utilitarian view of our position is to miss out on opportunities to be creative and artistic.

A couple of preliminary thoughts. First, make sure your leadership is on board with your ideas. This also means you need to clearly and precisely communicate your ideas. Don’t just do some of these “tricks” without informing anyone; that would not be wise. Further, know that change is sometimes difficult to implement, and can often be met with resistance. This is not a blog about change in the church, but I’m sure there could be entire blogs devoted to the subject. Just use your wisdom, and the combined wisdom of your peers, team, and leadership. In most of the examples below, I would recommend that you showcase or demonstrate what you have in mind–in detail–so that everyone is on the same page.

Change up the prelude.

Maybe you just have a CD play; spice it up with live musicians. Maybe you just play a bunch of hymns in the hymnal; change it up with some modern songs, or a variety. Maybe your church likes a lively prelude as people enter; consider throwing in one meditative song, perhaps in the middle, that might help people to reflect and pray. Add instrumentalists. Have an acoustic ensemble. Incorporate a student ensemble. Do something out of the ordinary that says you’re being intentional about all aspects of your corporate worship.

Add transitions between songs.

Tying your songs together with seamless musical transitions helps create momentum and a sense of direction. Including the lyrics on the screens or in the bulletins best facilitates this, but it can also be creatively achieved by using a hymnal. Some modern hymnals contain a few ready-made medleys available for use. Even if you have to spend time writing out your transitions, it will be well worth your time.

Provide background music for segues and prayers.

Sometimes, dead space is appropriate. But sometimes it’s helpful to include music to help transition, or to provide an atmosphere of thoughtfulness or reverence. Of course, we don’t “create” worship. But in the same way that a full orchestra aids in worship, or an organ or a guitar aids in worship, so can our keyboard artistry. Use simple, whole note chords and progressions. Don’t have distracting melodies, that might actually compete with the speaker or worship going on.

Introduce a poignant instrumental solo or ensemble.

At our church, we normally have an instrumental during our offering. It’s just been our tradition that has worked well, and it certainly gives a lot of our keyboardists and instrumentalists ample opportunity to serve. Perhaps you do too. But what if your instrumental was placed strategically at a location that really made people think. You could include some of the lyrics on the screens or in the bulletin. Especially if it’s thoughtful, and especially if it works well with the progression of the song portion of your worship service, this could be very effective.

Provide thoughtful invitation or response music.

Yes, our church still has an altar call. And if your church still utilizes a church pianist, there’s probably a good chance that you have one, too. Let’s not do a raise of hands, but many of us have sat through a boring, repetitive invitational played while the pastor prays, or calls the congregation to some sort of response. Why not play quiet, contemplative, and simple chords under the final invitation. An invitation hymn could be alluded to, but not outright played. And I’ve found playing at a much slower pace significantly helps the time to be more thoughtful and reflective.

Your service in the local church as a keyboard artist should provide you with many ways to explore creativity and imagination. With alignment and backing from your church’s leadership, you possess some powerful tools that enable you to provide variety and creativity in your church’s expression of worship. Ultimately, our goal is to exalt the greatness of our God (Psalm 145:3). In all you do–no matter how creatively or imaginatively–may that remain your top priority.


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How to simplify your congregational accompanying

March 16, 2018 - By 

Simplified piano accompanying is not something new or original with me. A lot of people are teaching this concept these days. Bob Kauflin, and many others who lead worship with a band, emphasize the importance of utilizing the keyboard in a way that enhances the mix, and doesn’t draw attention to itself. (Many are even minimizing the role of the accompanists in an effort to emphasize the actual singing of the congregation, which is a great trend!) But I’ve found that this technique, while necessary and appropriate in a praise band setting, also works very well in a more traditional setting (which is what I’m more familiar with).

If you’re the only accompanist for the congregational singing, I suggest you take this tip with a grain of salt. Sometimes, what you play (or don’t play) will make the difference between the congregation feeling very confident and singing out, versus them feeling uneasy and possibly even derailing the song. Your goal as an accompanist is to build confidence and provide support. Another factor involved is how long you’ve been their accompanist, and how well the people are used to you. If you’re a newbie, you’re going to want to take every precaution to ensure your playing is super supportive.

But if you are fortunate to play with other instruments (an acoustic band or a church orchestra), or your church is a four-part-harmony-singing type of church, you might find it helpful to simplify your accompaniment to compliment the ensemble or the singers. Let me give you a few examples.

Example 1

Here we have a pretty basic rendition of Amazing Grace, built on the harmonies found in the hymnal. This will work well with playing with a church orchestra.

Example 2

In example 2, you’ll find a much stronger bass line. I will often incorporate this style, especially if we don’t have adequate representation of the bass section (either brass or strings). Also, our church’s piano is a 9′ concert grand; those bass notes resonate beautifully and powerfully.

Example 3

Example 3 emphasizes the mid-section, and also provides some momentous movement in the left hand. (Movement helps maintain momentum, or keep a lagging group moving forward. But be careful. Too much movement–sixteenth notes and such–can slow things down.) This rendition works well when your highs and lows are represented well in the church orchestra. It also works well when you’re the only accompanist, or one of a few.

Example 4

Now things are starting to get exciting. Example 4 shows how you can eliminate some melody notes, and still provide support and momentum. Let’s face it, most people know this song really well. So the melody on beat 3 of the first full measure is not necessary. Notice the right hand pattern in the second full measure. It grows out of the harmonies of the chord, and provides the movement while the voice holds a half note out.

Example 5

Example 5 will actually only (best) work when you are the only accompanying instrument, mainly because we’re beginning to steer away from the harmonies found in a hymnal. If you are playing with an organ, or with an orchestra, or with four-part singing, this option likely won’t work. It will work best for congregations that are used to singing melody, or used to occasionally singing in free form.

Go ahead and hum the melody while you play through this example. The second full measure is really exciting to me. It not only helps continue to maintain momentum, but it builds into the next measure. Notice I removed the E minor chord on beat 3 of the third measure.

It occurred to me that you’re beginning to see the thought process that goes into arranging music. A pattern like this would work well for accompanying a soloist (vocal or instrumental) on this song. Even while simplifying, great interest has been added.

Example 6

Now let’s have some fun. Again, hum through the melody while playing this example. You won’t be able to get away with this pattern for a whole stanza, but you might be able to maintain it throughout the first half. It’s very open sounding, almost ethereal. This will also work well when you want a stanza to be very reflective.

Example 7

Since we’re getting crazy, have a look at this fun example. This is obviously very open and sustained. It will work in very few contexts. Our congregation follows a song leader who is confident and inspiring. Vocally, he can keep the momentum. That being the case, I might have liberty to experiment with options such as this. It wouldn’t be common, however.

Hopefully, whatever you decide to do, you will provide the congregation support, and you will enable the most important thing about congregational singing to be emphasized: the singing itself.


The Love of God — Trumpet Trio

Parts Included: Score, Piano, Trumpets 1, 2, & 3 Delivery: Instant Digital Download Preview Pages

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Crown Him with Many Crowns

Level: Early Advanced Pages: 4 Delivery: Instant digital download (PDF) via email

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Church pianist tips and tricks

February 22, 2018 - By 

Church music ministry looks different than it did 20 years ago, and even 10 or 5 years ago things were vastly different than they are today. Church pianists have to adapt. Skills that worked long ago must be developed, updated, and built upon.

As one of our church’s pianist, I’m constantly reminded of the need to change things up. Change is a good thing. Here are a few ways you can change things up, and hopefully see improvement in your worship service.

Simplify

Less is more. That’s never been more true than today. It used to be more desirable to be a flashy church pianist. I remember being in awe as I heard church pianists in college who executed stunning arpeggios and runs. But when it came down to it, I’m not really sure that helped me to sing better. (In fact, as an observant, aspiring musician myself, it was probably more distracting than anything.)

I’m not suggesting that we need to be less creative. The fact is, it takes a great deal of creativity to accomplish your accompanying goals in a minimal manner, as opposed to using more and louder notes. Less truly is more.

Emphasize

When it comes to congregational singing, what is the most important element? The accompanist? No, not really. Sure, the accompanist provides support and confidence, but the singers are the most important part. It’s what it’s all about.

Seek ways to emphasize the congregational singing. For me, it involves not always playing the melody, especially when it’s a song that the congregation knows extremely well. For example, songs like “Amazing Grace,” “In Christ Alone,” and “I Sing the Mighty Power of God,” rarely need the melody played. I can emphasize the congregational singing by minimizing the notes that I play.

Modernize

Let’s face it: The model and techniques we were taught in the university 20, 30, or 40 years ago aren’t always relevant to what we’re doing today. You’re going to need to modernize your approach. The stride that was popular generations ago is–by and large–rarely ever used today. I rarely use full 4-note chords to achieve a loud sound. I’ve found I can achieve a loud sound with just a few notes, and be even more effective.

I’m not suggesting that older techniques and effects were wrong. They served their generations well. It’s just that modern ears are used to something different. Find out what that is, and employ it.


What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Level: Early Advanced Pages: 4 Delivery: Instant digital download (PDF) via email

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Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above

Level: Early Advanced Pages: 4 Delivery: Instant digital download (PDF) via email

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We Three Kings (piano duet)

Level: Advanced Pages: 7 Delivery: Instant digital download (PDF) via email (Your purchase allows you to make necessary copies for all performers.)

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