The above picture is a real sign from a real church right down the street from me. They need a keyboardist, but they might as well get in line – all churches need a keyboardist and good ones are in short supply.
Conversely, I know of one big church with multiple campuses and multiple bands that still have guitarists coming out of their ears and in rotation. So where are the keyboard players? Everybody wants to be a rock star these days and the obvious choice is to play lead guitar. Plus it doesn’t help that most piano music majors can rattle off complex classical masterpieces yet are dumbfounded by a pop chord chart and synthesizer.
And even classical keyboard players are hard to find. In a church the size of Brookwood I was the only keyboard player, until recently, who was able to sight read music well enough to play for choir rehearsals – plunking out parts, etc.
To any young people out there I give this advice: if you want a career in music learn to play the keyboard, improvise and be a real musician for these reasons:
1. You’ll never want for a church job. I can count on one hand the number of keyboardists in this part of the country who could hold a full time job at a church that requires arranging, notating music with software, creating chord charts and improvising for transitions and under prayers.
2. You’ll always be able to play. I know one keyboard player who regularly plays at two big churches because there just isn’t anyone else. Even if you don’t want a full time career in music, a keyboardist can still make extra money on the weekends from churches who pay their musicians. If you can play both blended/traditional as well as pop keyboards in a band you’ll be even more in demand.
3. You can arrange and distribute your own music. It’s nice if you can sit in your room, strum a guitar and write a song, but then what? How will your music ever get out to the public? Learn some musical skills! Learn chords so you can create your own chord charts. Learn how to record your songs in the most professional way possible so others can hear them. Learn how to write out a piano part since the vast majority of church pianists can’t improvise. Learn how to arrange your song for choir or praise team since most volunteer vocalists don’t have enough of an ear to pick out their own parts. Even by being able to write out the melody for a lead sheet you’ll be way ahead of the pack.
Pianists are more apt to be arrangers than guitarists because the keyboard gives them a better grasp of theory and musical structure (I know innumerable guitarists and I can think of only two who read music.) And this is where the money is to be made – in creating your own songs and arrangements. With my keyboard and computer I’m able to completely and quite convincingly replicate an entire orchestra.
If you want to have the fame (not necessarily riches) of being a guitar rock star have fun. If you want a career, learn to play the keyboard – you’ll be a more well rounded musician and have a leg up on the tons of competition.