Playing keys in a band is super easy. You just press the power button, choose a sound, and start playing piano chords right? Well, let’s explore that a little with some quick pointers that will hopefully enhance your experience and expectation of playing music.
No Man Is An Island
If you’ve ever played in a symphonic band in grade school, you’ll recall how your instrument had a specific sound which played very specific parts. You’ll be happy (or not) to know nothing’s changed. Because playing together is human interaction, it can get messy! So listen! Just like anything, listening requires practice and playing together requires planning. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is my part playing a lead or supporting role?
- Does that role change within the song?
- Do I play something in unison with another instrument?
- Will that sound enhance or obscure that instrument?
- Will it require practice?
You will notice what works and what doesn’t when you listen to a recorded track. Someone planned out where and when instruments are being played and what kind of roles those elements are. It’s only music when it all works together.
If you’re playing with a bass player and you’re playing with both hands, then chances are you’re playing his part and stepping over his musical feet. Unless you’re a metronome or symbiotically connected to that bearded, hipster-looking bass player, notes will rub wrong and you won’t land on the same notes perfectly.
As an exercise, try playing without your left hand. The intro of “Found In You” only requires one finger. Give your left something else to do—like opening up filters, tapping in delay times, raising effects levels, playing a secondary keyboard to layer your sounds, or fixing your hair. This will feel unnatural at first for you piano players but it will open up new possibilities for your playing and creativity. The Front of House guy may actually put you in the mix!
Here’s a video example:
Don’t Be Scared
Don’t be afraid to play whole notes, or hold down a chord without any movement for a bar or more. If you’re playing all the time you’re probably playing too much. Let the beauty of those chord shapes ring! It’s especially life-giving, if you’re playing synth pads, to open up the Frequency Controller of that Low Pass Filter and let those Oscillators sing their analog praises – or add an effect like a Flanger to give that double chorus a little Phase lift. Holding down chords is also a gift because in the context of worship it gives you the opportunity to get lost in song. It no longer becomes something to do but something to experience.
Here’s another video example:
I know it sounds weird to ask that of music because most of the time it seems like it’s something you put effort into. But I see playing music as a deep pool of amazing azure water – you can either throw in stones and see how they make cute little splashes or jump in!
JYRO LA VILLA
Assistant Music Director
Jyro serves as the Assistant Music Director at the Lake Forest campus. He believes that music should always be exciting, fresh and interesting. As a music director, Jyro is always looking for ways to implement that belief into the creation, interpretation and performance of music. He is passionate about using creativity and music to express worship in an innovative way.
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