How to Fit Piano into Guitar-Driven Worship

Writer Kevin Ott At Rocking Gods HouseDespite the overwhelming dominance of guitar-driven worship, the piano is still a relevant instrument. While the instrument might wax and wane in popular culture, all worship bands, if it is in their power to do so, should consider including a piano. If you’re a worship director, you might be thinking: “Well, we sound fine the way we are. Why should we bother if we’ve already got plenty of guitarists and everything sounds fine?”

Here are four reasons:

1. The piano is a percussive instrument, thanks to its use of hammers. If your drummer is out sick or if your worship team doesn’t have a drummer, the piano can actually fill in for the drums. Simple, rhythmic chording on a piano can go a long way to keep a band in tempo and provide a backbone to keep everything together. Although an acoustic guitar can also function as a timekeeper with solid strumming, the piano — with its powerful little hammers — executes sharper percussive strikes than a guitar. Its notes have greater “attack.”

2. It’s an expressive instrument. The original name of the piano was “piano-forte” which means “soft loud.” While this can be said of other instruments to an extent, the piano stands out with its ability to play expressive dynamics using its pedals.

3. It’s an instrument with range. Bass player out sick? The piano player can play powerful low notes to give you a full frequency range for your mix.

4. It’s useful for vocalists. Is the alto singer having a hard time finding that note? You can plunk the alto’s part out on the piano to keep everyone in harmonic heaven.

Christian Sheet MusicWhile these are all great reasons for considering why you should add a piano to your team, here are four tips for actually making it happen:

1. Look for piano players who can play music from a lead sheet — i.e. chords written out with no musical notation. This can eliminate the need for purchasing piano music for each song used. Lead sheets, while probably not preferred by the classically trained musician, have been around since the 15th century with Gregorian chants, so they are here to stay. As an added bonus, they allow pianists to not be so bogged down with notes that they forget to listen to the band and the vocalists.

2. Decide if you want the piano to add “color” or be more foundational. This can depend on what other mix of musical instruments you have and what style your worship band prefers. Everyone does not need to play every note of the chord, unless you like a muddy sound!

3. Keep those thirds in chords quiet sometimes! Just playing the fifths in chords can keep the music open to other instruments, and it lends a more open feel to worship music. Don’t feel you have to play every note of every song. Watch to make sure you don’t constantly overlap an instrument in the same harmonic range. The piano has 88 keys and you don’t need to stay in the two octaves in the middle.

4. If you have a bass player, go easy on the left hand. Bass players around the world will thank you.

If you think the piano is an antiquated instrument, all you have to do is watch “The Piano Guys” hard at work with their version of the Lord of the Rings soundtrack in the video above, and you will gain new appreciation for it.

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Or if you’re looking for online sheet music for Christian songs, try this excellent resource: