If you read but don’t improvise

This is the first chapter I assign to keyboardists serving in churches who read traditional notation but don’t know how to improvise.  It takes advantage of their reading skills. It teaches them how to refashion what is on the page by revoicing/respacing the sounds so that more dynamic contrast is achieved.

This file is 31 pages long and has 45 musical examples with a running commentary included of what is going on technically. It’s a serious attempt to help you start to make the transition from just reading traditional notation to doing basic improvisation. I think you will find it to be an effective first step.

02A Revoicing Revitalizing


Ideas in Worship Keyboard Improv Book Coming

In seeking to hone our improvisational capacities, the keyboard has advantages over single-line instruments, for it allows us to think more comprehensively about music—not only melodically but also harmonically. Ideally, we need an…

Abundance of Harmonic Possibilities. Why is that important? We may be searching arduously for the exactly right, fitting sonority in a piece. Obviously, our chances of finding it are much better if we have a slew of many-hued sounds in our experiential memory to draw from.  Even more fundamentally, the keyboard can help us understand chord structure and chord function. And as we make music physically with our fingers, the theory behind music becomes tactile, concrete, alive—less abstract.

Abundance of Examples. The two volumes employ well over a 1000 examples. Three kinds of examples are employed: (1) you’ll find abstract examples that express how a particular chord or harmonic relationship can function; (2) then it is demonstrated a number of times in different worship songs so you can see it’s potential and usefulness; (3) finally, you’re asked to “try it,” to apply it yourself in a piece where I know it can function effectively.

Transposition. Keyboard transposition is stressed in this book. Why? The repetition of playing a chord or short phrase (it’s various spacings and functions), over and over again in various keys, helps to establish it firmly in our inner ear and fingers. The goal is to acquire the actual “feel” of the chord or relationship, so we don’t have to think hard about it. A seventh, a ninth, or any kind of extension, has got to become as easy and effortless as playing a C major chord.

Transposition solidifies the thinking and hearing process. It tests whether we can apply concepts in another key. It forces us to think in new keys, and get “command” of those new keys. You may find that you can think better in some keys than others! We’ll keep our transposition examples really short (usually four measures), and we’ll use well-known songs you probably know. That will make it more fun and relevant.

Modulation. Once we can play songs in different keys, the desire emerges to have the capacity to fashion effective transitions, to be able to modulate and to craft segues within and between pieces. Modulations that lead to the coveted goal of achieving meaningful, flowing, seamless worship can usually be handled more competently by keyboardists than guitarists. So we’ll need detailed, specific training in this area.

Guitar Keys. In worship contexts today, guitarists (who often rule!) tend to avoid keys with flats. They prefer keys with sharps. Therefore I limit the range of keys to those you will tend to use most frequently. Once we can think in the keys of C, D, E (especially), F, G, and A, it’s relatively easy to extend our thinking to the flat keys. Furthermore, this limitation serves to reduce the “brain load” and allows us to cover more material, yet with the confidence we are truly grasping it.

Sing and Play. The ability to be able to sing and play simultaneously is invaluable when leading or accompanying worship—and it’s challenging! It takes extra energy and concentration to maintain good pitch, tone, and congregational eye contact while singing, and yet play fluently and rhythmically, barely looking at the keys. A higher level of keyboard mastery is demanded. We’ll be developing this skill along the way. I’ll supply the words to many songs so you can practice singing and playing.

Worship Keyboard Improv Book Coming

I expect to post a greatly revised keyboard improv book in a couple of months.  It’s a major update of the keyboard book mentioned on my home page. The two volume effort will contain, in total, more than 1000 music examples and over 500 pages.  My intent, for now, is to offer the materials free of charge. Teachers and students will be able to download, make copies of any pages.  A generous copyright notice should appear with the work. Volume One will become available first.   Below, read the Forward for Volume One.  I’ll be posting more info on this project in the days to come.


Would you like to become an accomplished keyboard improviser? How about the ability to play instantly any worship song you hear, transpose it to another key? Or do you aspire to create captivating harmonies, arresting melodies and bass lines?

Are you motivated by a burning desire to help your congregation sing out with energy and conviction, and to bring out the words and theology in worship songs? (I must admit, this is a personal passion of mine.) Would you love to have at your fingertips an abundance of ideas on what to do, how to proceed, and concrete ways to develop yourself? Then this book is for you!

For many years I have been teaching keyboard improvisation to music majors whose primary instrument is the piano at Biola University, an evangelical university of 6000 in the Los Angeles area. Many of these students, guys and girls with “classical chops”, possess quite a bit of technique, and read traditional notation fluently. The majority, however, cannot improvise, cannot think in music, or do so in a simplistic, halting manner. They don’t know what to do. They are most comfortable with written-out music.

On the other hand, I’ve had other students who are pretty good improvisers and have real imagination, but read traditional notation slowly and hesitantly, and are very limited in their understanding of how music works. The differences between the two, in both background and aptitude, can be startling, even extreme! This is my attempt to meet the needs of all of these diverse learners.

I’ve discovered approaches that work for different kinds of students. Many times I’ve gone back to my office after a lesson and have added another step, another example, to improve clarity. In other words, be assured these materials have undergone much scrutiny, thought, testing, and revision. My sincere thanks to you, my students, who have helped me understand your needs and desires better. I’ve learned much from you.

A big problem! I understand young people, particularly, would like the book to contain the very latest, “hot” worship songs as examples. But this doesn’t make much sense for a book of this sort. The latest songs tend to last a couple of years and they’re gone. Nobody seems interested in singing them anymore. The “turn over” rate is simply astonishing and it’s unrelenting! Therefore, I’ve chosen well-known hymns and worship choruses with at least some proven staying power… stuff you’re likely to continue to use.

The book is aimed primarily at college-level students who have acquired at least a minimum of two semesters of music theory. And you should also know that this book deals predominantly with harmonic possibilities, and less with rhythm.

Nevertheless, this book should be helpful to any intelligent intermediate to advanced keyboardist, even if you may not know much music theory and consider your sight reading skill deficient. Why? First, many examples are extremely easy to read. Second, the step-by-step approach, replete with an abundance of music examples and explanatory written comments, communicates in simple English what is going on musically and theoretically in worship pieces. It breaks down harmonic and improvisational concepts into small, achievable chunks.

In another worship book I wrote, The New Worship: Straight Talk on Music and the Church (Baker, 2001), I called for an outpouring of worship materials in all areas, including music, the dramatic and visual arts, and works that would embrace the theoretical, practical, and pedagogical. I pledged myself to contribute to the effort (p.35). These two keyboard volumes are part of my effort to make good on that promise.

Finally, if another writer/contributor can borrow from what I have written, improve upon it, and advance the field, wonderful! Nothing would make me happier than to see the Church built up, rise up, and offer a paean of praise to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Music Industry versus Worship MInistry

Music Industry takes a Nosedive

The music industry is experiencing a plummeting nosedive. Between 1999 and 2014, music record sales have dropped 70%, resulting in a loss of 14 billion dollars in income. More individuals than ever are consuming music, however, fewer and fewer are willing to pay for it.  The result is that music itself has lost value, has become less valuable.

In the past, people were forced to buy a CD of a dozen songs for $15-20 dollars for their personal music library.  Today they can buy the one song they really want for $1 via itunes. CD use is becoming something of the past as each year the volume of CDs sold drops.  In 2016, Walmart, the largest seller of CDs in North America, is reducing its store space for CDs by 50%.

Music Streaming Services Ascending

Instead music streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, and Utube are becoming the mainstay. The result is that an immense catalogue of music, previously out of reach to the individual, is becoming available for a few dollars or cents, or for free. With the plummeting of music sales, recording studio are closing and professional recording musicians find their services increasingly unwanted. In Hollywood, professional musicians are rebelling against music unions and their unions dues because they can’t find sufficient work. Many no longer see the value of the unions –“What are they doing for us?”

Heightened Awareness of the Worship MInistry

In contrast,the worship ministry in our churches has been accorded more importance than in the past. It is recognized as valuable.  Worship can play an important role in the spiritual development of believers and in attracting new worshipers and seekers. Pastors and worship leaders today are the most visible leaders in the church.  More time is being accorded to worship. Consequently worship leaders are in greater demand than ever before.

Recording studio musicians, given the stress of paying their bills, are often seeking part-time work in churches.  They desire some form of regular income to supplement the “feast or famine” lifestyle they experience in the commercial music industry.  Furthermore, the excitement of touring across the country with a band, soon fades.  Musicians wishing to settle down and start a family understand they need to be able to spend time with their spouse and children.

The upshot to all of this is that, for musicians, a worship ministry in the church is looking more attractive. Though less spectacular, it appears to offer more long-range stability — even more personal meaning.  Now there are serious problems facing the worship ministry today, and working in the church is uniquely challenging itself –it’s not for the faint of heart — but let’s save that for another time.

Several New Revisions

These revisions of lecture PowerPoints were posted on Sept 15, 2014; intended to  supplement the book, People in the Presence of God.

01g (key word) “Identical”

01j (key words) “Discontinuity” vs “Continuity”

03 (key word) “Patriarchs” and “Parents”

09b (keyword) “Sinai”

Use the search box to find these PowerPoints quickly.

Five OT Sacrifices Revised, Improved

10A Five OT Sacrifices

(Supplemental PowerPoint for People in the Presence of God)

Updated, Improved, August 4, 2014.  This version gets at the meanings of the 5 sacrifices more strongly, their echoes in the New Testament,  and possible applications for today.

For proper formatting, go to the search box (upper right corner), and write in Tabernacle: Five Sacrifices, or simply click on “download” (bottom left-hand corner).

Theory Books Revised July 2014

The following updated/revised files were uploaded on July 30. 2014.

The New Worship Theory Book, Volume 1:  1A Contents; 1B Understanding Chord Symbols; 2 Notation; 3  Nashville Number Charts; 4b 25 Tips for Good Chart Writing

The New Worship Theory Book, Volume 2: 13 Creating Hymn charts; 14 Finding the Right Key; 16 Progressions Down a Fifth.

The New Worship Theory Book, Volume 3: 31 Modulation I: Establishing the New Key; 32 Modulation II: Smoothing the Transition.

To find the files, go to the search box (upper right corner) and write in part or all of the title.


What builds up is there for up to out of the for free musically followers hack

Jacob Sartorius is certainly past due. He suffered supported up from your studio, so where he deals two writers directly on distinct panels churning away songs directly on tracks directly on tracks. this in conjunction with any of the auditions (he most recently accredited right to UTA, one of the the front talent establishments directly on Hollywood), a built-in arriving realm tour simply to the fact that hes about to decline his brand-new bubble-gum single, All My close friends.

When i get back to my hotel gap each night, i think about just how happy i am to be carrying out what Ive often dreamed of, claims Sartorius. Chewing gum simply to tending right to his gravity-defying teen-idol coiffure, hes quite definitely directly on convenience losing this early oct daytime in a single Los Angeles photo studio. Any of the 13-year-old will be a pop star from your making: His debut ode right to PG courtship, Sweatshirt, hit and no. 90 on a Billboard in demand 100, simply to All My Friends wound up debuting directly on and no. 25 on a Pop digital tracks graph. Simply to he owes everything that right to a system most adults possess nonetheless not at all found of: Musical. Ly, a built-in video-based sociable media mechanism that tens of an incredible number of kids foreign even use, often right to broadcast 15-second clips of themselves lip-syncing right to hit tracks. Sartorius has updates directly on breakthrough that an foreign celebrity, claims Jbeau Lewis, any of the tracks agent directly on UTA who’ve is compatible him, with his primary Musical. Ly supporters that offer the source.

Musical. Ly is certainly most things: a built-in hit mobile app that topped any of the iOS App store for free graph directly on July 2015 simply to hasnt low in from the the front 40 seeing that; a built-in scorching-hot startup by a $500 mil valuation (seeing that approximated by just TechCrunch in-may) simply to in excess of 133 mil Musers foreign; and a promotional mechanism embraced out from the tracks customers for its capability to translate song clips down into rivers simply to sales. Simply to by having fifty percent of all european young people (with respect to the companys estimation) out from the app, Musical. Ly has turned into a bona fide sociable sensation, flat inspiring pearl-clutching between olds, out on parents fretting in excess of sexualized child years simply to over the internet predators right to traditionalists pondering any of the artistic validity of lip-syncing. It might not be Elvis thrusting his hips or formal Enemy talking truth right to specialist but then once again, was going to anyone whos not a teenager admit it if ever Musical. Ly do stand for a new frontier directly on pop?

Fantasy any youthquake, a number of these savvy adults inserted away the early tremors. It was vintage sensation word-of-mouth, is certainly just how Alex Hofmann, Musical. Lys 35-year-old human brain of america, explains any of the apps jump out on 10 mil amount to affiliates one year ago right to at the moment, as early as 13 mil are currently contributed monthly. Teens directly on further platforms was going to note a partner talk about a built-in Musical. Ly video, fantasy it, download any of the app simply to call on his / her close friends right to get involved with it.

Hofmann, who’ve grew up directly on Germany simply to reduce his dental directly on Teutonic mechanism giant SAP, is certainly soft-spoken by having connect accent simply to deals plenty of actual passion for the Musers (seeing that Musical. Lys affiliates are currently inspired), who’ve he musically-likes claims are currently fantasy our kids. a few days subsequent Sartorius was snapping his gum from your photo studio, Hofmann sits from your companys as-yet-unfurnished brand-new Santa Monica digs. Any of the Shanghai-based startup, there is a employs 100 affiliates foreign, by itself moved its own european outpost out on a built-in WeWork gap directly on san francisco right to listed here any of the hangar-like primary gap will soon be painted Musical. Ly reddish ahead of the daytime has gone out. In the last two weeks he is being right to China, any of the Philippines (between its own fastest-growing deals) simply to back again between. Musical. Ly debuted directly on August 2014, shortly after co-founder/co-CEO Alex Zhu, 37, who was about to run out of buck as for his educational video provider, recorded young people on a Silicon Valley commuter demo bobbing his / her heads right to tracks in their earbuds seeing that shooting selfies simply to movies. Zhu at the moment oversees considerations out on Shanghai by having Luyu Yang, 35, and something co-founder/co-CEO. (Yang, fantasy Zhu, was born directly on China. )

As early as he was brought onboard directly on 2015 simply to tasked by having altering any of the apps crowd, Hofmann inserted about what he phone calls community motions, speaking with 50 right to 100 Musers on a daily basis. It was imperative to get to know them the front, he claims, to emphasis on what excites them, simply to then: Lets by itself do all the more of that.

Hofmann posted does work just like a leaderboard, enhanced friend-finding, video Q&As, duets by having further Musers simply to privilege-granting Best enthusiast Forever badges. And also the apps convenience helpful Musers is doing sluggish come up as for the front mouth-to-music matching, simply to you can find earnings galore kids might use right to seamlessly polish his / her exhibits Musical. Ly took away as such rapidly simply to altogether that lots of parents were employed by just surprise, simply to getting yourself employed aback, by just his / her childrens brand-new obsession. (as per remarks, the company, there is a is focused on sensation but still breakthrough tips to make a profit, deals however right to earn progressively salaries or change a built-in salaries. )

With techniques, Musical. Ly amounts any of the pop-culture using field: Justin Bieber found fame directly on YouTube by just singing simply to strumming guitar along right to pop tracks. Efficient Musers fantasy charisma, but they dont fantasy musical chops (or old-fashioned video-editing skills, for the whole point). Before Musical. Ly, i wasnt by far the most outgoing, claims Sartorius, who’ve begun carrying out directly on musicals directly on 7 simply to was bullied for this. The app helped me personally goof away. Its fantasy nobody is certainly seeing aside from the camera.