Transitions: creating a seamless flow

May 20, 2013 - By 

In a typical worship service, you will come across times when two or more hymns are scheduled back to back. This happens often. What’s more, they usually aren’t consecutive songs in the hymnal. As a pianist, how do you handle that?

You can do what I did for years, just have your hymnal ready, and hope that the worship leader speaks long enough between songs so that you have enough time to locate the next song. Or you can get creative and really help the flow of the worship service.

Here are some ideas:

Have a notebook. Take the time to photocopy all of the songs in the “set.” Place them in sheet protectors in a half inch binder. A simple solution like this will have a profound impact on your worship service. Once you start this habit, you won’t go back!

Develop transitions. This is well worth your time, and in my experience, one of the most significant factors in creating a seamless flow to the worship service. Consider the different meters, signatures, and moods among the songs chosen. Come up with 1, 2, or 4 measures of music that tie one song to the next.

Consider writing down your transitions if you don’t feel comfortable playing them by ear. This may be one of the most difficult tasks you tackle, but the return on the investment is well worth the effort. By the way, transitions work best when your congregation sings from a screen, but you can adjust the length if they will be flipping through the hymnal.

Consider alternatives to the norm. Just recently our worship leader came to me and asked me to play My Jesus, I Love Thee at the end of a set in the key of D because the song before it was in the key of D. A simple move like this was a brilliant way to go right into this familiar song without a transition after singing a newer song. It worked really well. Doing simple yet creative things like this will lead to more memorable and meaningful times of worship for your congregation.

Always be flexible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the perfect transition, and the worship leader wanted to speak longer. The opposite has also happened: I thought the worship leader wanted to talk more, so I added more at the keyboard, only to find out that he just wanted to go right into the next song. This calls for flexibility. Be able to vamp as needed. In other words, be able to play simple chords and simple chord patterns repeatedly that support and don’t distract. This will enable your worship leader to feel free to spontaneously share a few thoughts of encouragement or inspiration.

Communicate. Keep communication open between you and the worship leader. You are a team! Ours typically shares with me where he would like to speak a little longer, or share a Bible verse, etc., and he gives me any instructions he has for me. I might run a transition by him, and sometimes we even rehearse the set, especially if it has new songs in it, or a different arrangement of a song. Over time, and because of good communication, I feel I can read him pretty well, and I’m rarely caught off guard when he wants to change it up.

I’m still learning, and I’m sure I haven’t figured it all out, but these are just some things we are doing to help our worship services be a little more intentional and seamless. I’d be interested to hear what you are doing to help with your worship service.

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