I heard it said recently that a soloist is only as good as his or her pianist.
While that may be a bit overstated, there’s much truth in it. Anyone who has sung much in public knows the difference it makes when you have a strong, confident pianist supporting you versus when the pianist is not playing with confidence.
And if that’s true for a soloist, it’s also true for congregational singing, choirs, small groups.
If you play the piano in church, you need to know how to play with energy.
Here are some thoughts on playing with energy:
- Energy is not always related to speed. Our tendency is to equate speed with energy. The thought is that if you up the tempo, there will be more energy. Yet that is not always the case. That’s like thinking we are accomplishing more in life just because we are moving faster.
- There are musical techniques besides speed that bring energy. More movement in the accompaniment brings energy. (think sixteenths vs. eighth note runs) Dynamic changes bring energy. Expressiveness in your touch brings energy. (think phrasing the sections as a whole with rise and fall, not just playing as individual notes) More complex chords bring energy.
- Always choose confidence over playing all the notes. With that being said above, it would still be better for your singer if you play the notes you can play well, with expression and strength, than to try to hit all the notes and fumble through it. If you are struggling to keep up, simplify sixteenths to eighth notes if they are too fast for you to keep up. If the chords alternate between high octaves and low octaves, and you’re having a hard time going back and forth between the two, keep them all in the same octave.
Church music is not about performance. It’s not about showing off whether you can play the entire piece flawlessly. It’s about ministering the truth to the hearts of God’s people. Time constraints make it difficult to prepare every note on the page.
Confident simplicity trumps sloppy complexity every time.
Those are just a few thoughts. Add any other ideas in the comments at the bottom of this post.