So here begins the first in a series of blog posts on essentials of being a gospel musician, specifically a pianist/keyboardist! Many people ask the question "how did you get to play like that/how do I start learning piano/what's the number one piece advice you would give to musicians learning?", but these questions can't be quickly answered. I've heard older musicians say, "you youngsters have so many resources now - you're so lucky! If I had x, y, and z at your age, I would have been the best musician in the world etc". The problem with the Internet is that there are so many resources - but where do you start? There's DVDs, fancy keyboards with lots of equipment and sounds, there's YouTube videos, scale books, and the list goes on! What I'll try and do is take you through what I think is a good path to being a gospel pianist/keyboardist. Note: this post is applicable to all instruments! I mention gospel keyboardists, but any musician can learn from this!
So before you begin, there are a number of things to consider:
- Money - this will cost you. DVDs, instruments, professional lessons, books etc. are not cheap! Be sure that this is what you want to do, before you go spending a bunch of cash on something that you will not commit to!
- Time - the time you put in is proportional to how good you will get (roughly - I'll explain why this isn't necessarily true later). Be prepared to spend time in the woodshed (to lock oneself away with one's instrument and practice)!
- Purpose - why are you doing this? What is the purpose of your musicianship? Do you just want to be able to play well? Do you want to benefit people's lives through music? Do you want to glorify God through your playing? Do you just want to be able to play nice chords? Understanding the purpose of why you're playing and what you're doing will help you define the goals you need to get there. Don't worry, I'm not saying you need to have a super spiritual reason for playing right now - just the desire to want to play in church is good enough (for now). But as you develop, you'll need to re-assess and re-define the purpose of why you're playing.
Once you've established that you're willing to spend the money, time and you have a purpose as to why you've decided to become a keyboard player, then you're ready to begin!
- Basic Music Theory
You MUST....MUST...MUST...know some music theory in order to become competent at any level. Note: I didn't say you have to be able to read to a Grade 8 standard. But music theory is essential to being a gospel keyboardist/pianist.
Let me explain why.
There will be times where I haven't had time to play a song. AT ALL. Haven't touched the keys, never heard it before. However, I can sit down at the piano and play it like I've practiced it my whole life. This is because of theory. I've learnt songs on the way to a gig/service, and executed them perfectly - not because I am some amazing genius, but because of music theory.
So here are the basics of music theory that you need to know:
1) Learn the musical alphabet.
2) Learn what musical scales are.
3) Learn what intervals are.
4) Learn what chords are.
5) Learn what the grand staff is.
6) Learn what key signatures are.
7) Learn what time signatures are.
8) Learn note durations.
9) Cadences - Half, Plagal, and Authentic
10) THE NUMBER SYSTEM.
Two great links:
Learn the information in both of these links and you will be on your way!
We will come back to the Number System later, but safe to say - after you've learnt those first 9 things using the 2 links below, the number system is the next most important thing for you to learn!