Basic Tips for Worship Keyboardists

John Benard gives 10 tips for how to play in a contemporary way.

  1. Set up where you can always see the face of your worship or band leader. Signals and communication will be much more intuitive.
  2. Don’t just stick to piano sounds. Pads, Rhodes, Whirly, Hammond, strings. Variety is the spice girls of music.
  3. You are playing in the same sonic spectrum as the lead guitarist so try to hear what each other is playing and work together, combine rhythms, you play low, they play high, you play chords, they play lead, take turns etc. If you can’t hear them at least watch their fingers for the rhythms they play.
  4. Use sus2 chords (1,2,5) instead of full triads (1,3,5) – it adds a sense of ambiguity and space to the sound
  5. Your left hand performs a very similar function to the bass player so be careful not to clash and give them room to do their job. Common mistakes are playing ‘pushes’ that don’t lock in with the bass line or kick drum, freestyle rhythms that don’t lock in with the main groove and general business.
  6. If in doubt tie your left hand behind your back and just use your right hand. I’m serious!
  7. Learn the 1st and 2nd inversion of the basic triad so you can link from one chord to the next with the closest voicing
  8. Don’t rely on transpose button all the time. Once you are confident in C, learn to play in G then D then Bb, Eb – use the black notes!
  9. Use reference tracks and try to copy exact keyboard parts from CDs, it will build your knowledge of sounds and train your ear.
  10. Work out what style your band is trying to play in and listen to as much music from those who inspire your sound.


Essential reading for worship leaders since 2002.


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