6 Tips To Practicing Difficult Gospel Songs

Our focus in today’s lesson is on practicing difficult gospel songs.

Have you ever wondered how top gospel keyboardists effortlessly play almost any song, no matter how difficult they seem?

Have you ever thought that only talented people with gifted fingers can play the way you’ve always watched them do on TV?

Well, that’s because you’re yet to learn 6 tips used by top players.

The tips I’m about to show you are no new discoveries. Although they’ve been used by most of the piano greats we know today, they were never put into writing to ease learning.

Below are presented the six tips that can help you practice any gospel song irrespective of its difficulty.

Tip #1 – Listening To And Analyzing The Selected Song

One of the fastest ways of learning a song, which is used by gospel keyboardists, is listening to the original recordings of the piece you want to practice.

This would give you an overall picture of the contour and stylistic nature of the music, as well as inform you on the techniques you will need to conquer any difficult section.

Listening can also save you great time and energy from repeating many bars that have same elements and structures.

Analyzing a piece (i.e. checking out for musical forms like AB, ABA; rhythm; and modulation), would always prepare you for the work ahead, and could make you attain 40% of acquaintance with the piece at hand.

“Let Me Throw More Light On That…”

While practicing the song As The Deer, analyzing the song shows that the line that says “as the deer panteth for the waters so my soul longeth after thee” and the line that says “you alone are my heart desire and I long to worship you” share the same chord progression.

That’s the power of analysis.

Tip #2 – Beginning With The Difficult Parts

As a inexperienced gospel keyboardist who has practiced a few number of pieces, you must have noticed that there are sections you can actually call ‘difficult’.

Starting off with these sections would require more concentration and energy.

Therefore, it will be more rewarding if the challenging bars are learned first before the easier ones: this can be achieved by dividing sections of the song into smaller units, and then treating them as groups of three or four bars each.

Guess what?

Once you’re done with the difficult parts, you’re done with the song.

Tip #3 – Using The Hands Separate Method (HS)

This method is always ignored by intuitive players who just want to play the song to the end. So, they will be tempted to begin practicing hands together (HT) at first instance.

This is a wrong approach to learning to play by ear and for technique acquisition. Believe it or not, one gets to learn about the patterns and relations of notes only when s/he practices hands separately (HS).

HS practice helps you acquire piano technique.

Tip #4 – Memorizing While You Learn

Learning a piece can be simpler if accompanied by memorizing.

It can be stressed here that learning and memorizing should go hand-in-hand. This is so because the brain is involved, consequently, it would rescue you from being solely dependent on your ear. Learning and memorizing can foster your learning of difficult sections of a given song as well.

Tip #5 – Practicing Slowly

Ramping to play a piece without first attempting playing slowly HS is detrimental.

Firstly, you would build speed stops around yourself which would eventually hurt you in your latter playing life.

Slow playing can help basically in two ways: it helps each hand play accurately in a manageable tempo, also it assists the brain during psychological process between the nerves/muscles and the mind.

Always end a practice session by playing slowly at least once.

Tip #6 – Fingering Appropriately

Good fingering is for comfortable playing through the keys.

Gospel keyboardists always have multiple choices of fingering to use, and that’s because different folks use different strokes.

However, classical music fingering guides have been most helpful for the past 700 years.

Studying classical music fingering guides might be painstaking at first, but it’s of great advantage to the beginner. Fingering should be first learned hands separately (HS) before hands together (HT).

Final Words

Finally, having gone through these six vital steps of effective piano studies, applying them would give you great results.

For example, rushing to play HT when HS is not first learned can be harmful, and MUST be avoided.

Secondly, having a bird eye-view of the song (listening and analyzing) can prepare a student for the challenges he would encounter while practicing.

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Chuku Onyemachi

Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. I started teaching musicians in my neighbourhood in April 2005. Today, I'm humbled to work as a music consultant with HearandPlay Music Group for musicians in Africa and beyond.