LET YOUR SOUNDS LEAD YOUR KEYS PARTS | David Pfaltzgraff
A few years ago I happened upon a video of a worship band that was about to kick into their first song and all signs pointed to it being a big opener . I think it was a youth group band , a crowd of teenagers was ready to go , the countdown hit zero .
Immediately I could tell they were going into ‘ Alive ’ by Hillsong Young & Free . Strong opener , I remember thinking , but then I noticed that something sounded different … off .
All the parts were right , the notes , the tempo locked in . I could see and hear the keys player on stage banging out the syncopated keys riff that never stops once it starts . But it didn ’ t take me more than a few seconds to figure out what wasn ’ t working .
The keys player was nailing the synth parts but playing them with a dry , acoustic grand piano sound .
It didn ’ t hit the same . The parts were great , but that piano sound stood out like a sore thumb .
I share this story confessing that I ’ ve made the same mistake myself , sometimes by accident and other times on purpose , only to realize later-on , in my development as a musician , that there was a disconnect between what I was playing and what I was using to play it .
Modern worship keys players are asked to be chameleons , effortlessly shifting from pop , to dance , to arena rock , to gospel , to post-rock , to who knows what else . Most of us do this with a smile on our face , up for the challenge of tackling genre after genre but the learning curve can feel pretty steep , especially when you shoulder this responsibility week in and week out .
These days trends in music seem to cycle faster than ever before so it ’ s not too difficult to miss a trend or two only to be side-swiped by a gap in your knowledge when you log-in to check the setlist for Sunday without much time to spare before rehearsal and don ’ t know what the heck you ’ re listening to .
The good news is you can get out ahead of this a bit by doing some digging into music trends new and old . Let ’ s scratch the surface of that work now , shall we ?
PIANOS , EPs , AND DIGITAL PIANOS
To start , there are about a thousand different ways to play a piano . There are also at least that many different types of piano sounds . Even just acoustic pianos can sound and play very differently from each other with a range from massive grand to quiet , intimate upright and everything in between .
Then you can add in electric pianos like Rhodes , Wurlitzer and CP-80 and classic digital / synthesized pianos like those found in the Roland MKS-20 rack module and the Yamaha DX7 FM synthesizer .
All of these potential sounds have been used in a near infinite number of ways across the last few decades of music history so it would be understandable if you felt a bit overwhelmed just thinking about it .
The good news is that you can learn and apply some simple best practices across the vast majority of these sounds and playing styles . Becoming familiar with basic chord inversions , voice leading , and closed and open positions will get you a long way towards playing any one