The proper playing of Gospel songs necessitates a good understanding of Gospel Music. Gospel music is a specific genre of Christian music. Although Gospel music varies from one culture to another, there are similarities among them that make it possible to classify them into a single music genre called “Gospel music.” These characteristics and similarities include dominant vocals with Christian lyrics and rhythmic accompaniment that include foot stomping and hand clapping. Moreover, many Gospel songs are performed a cappella.
As a music genre, Gospel music appears to be a combination of jazz and blues genres. The jazz and blues influences are very apparent in Gospel music and if you listen to it, you can readily hear these influences. This is because Gospel music actually originated from these two roots; however, its theme is focused on spiritual topics and has religious connotations which distinguish it from jazz and blues. Its tempo also is characterized by its distinctive speed. Moreover, the pitch and chords used in Gospel music vary slightly from those of blues and jazz.
Purpose of Gospel Music
If there is a right word to describe a Gospel singer, that would be the word “prophetes” which is a Greek word for “deliverer” or an “interpreter.” As a Gospel singer, you will be enabling the audience to raise their consciousness to a higher state and have higher spiritual awareness. Similarly, if you play Gospel Music using your piano, you are contributory to this elevation of the consciousness of the audience who listen to how you play. Hence, you must adequately prepare yourself before every performance to ensure that the significance of the Gospel is relayed to the audience.
Since Gospel music are solemn hymns and are usually performed in the church, as a piano player, you must be able to encourage the whole congregation to sing with you and to sing lively. The enthusiasm of the audience solely depends on how you play, and the mood that you incorporate into your piano playing of Gospel songs will inevitably have so much impact on the mood of the congregation. If you want the congregation to sing lively, you should then assume an upbeat playing style to engender a lively mood. If you sense that the general mood of a song is solemn, then you should configure your playing style to adapt to the prevailing solemn mood of the congregation. The rhythm and tone of the vocalist are also usually dependent on the mood that you would like to portray.
Gospel music is different from traditional classical music. Classical music appears rigid and precise, while Gospel music sports a certain sense of spontaneity and freedom. Moreover, if you play Gospel music, you are also required to know the different meditation techniques to help the congregation relax while singing Gospel songs. Here are some other tips that could help you in your piano playing of Gospel music.
Techniques for Playing Gospel Music on Piano
“Nothing is achieved without sacrifice,” quipped my music professor in college. Well, she is definitely right, for if you want to learn how to play Gospel music using piano, you need to sacrifice time and effort in learning the rudiments of Gospel music. There are techniques in playing Gospel songs, and these techniques require you to practice chords, scales, legatos, arpeggios, and staccatos. A scale usually consists of a range of 8 tones or notes. It begins with a note and ends on the same upper note which is an octave higher. If you are a musician, you are definitely cognizant of a scale. Mastering the different scales will surely help you hone your skill in piano playing. In toto, there are twelve minor scales and twelve major scales.
The 13th Chords Technique
This technique is commonly used in Gospel music. You should learn this technique and master it so that you can ably use it while playing Gospel music. The 13th Chord is generally a kind of dominant chord. It consists of 7 notes and is typically used in jazz playing. It is also the chord that was built on the 5th scale note. If you are playing a 5 to 1 progression, you can use the dominant chord. In which case, if you are using the key of C, it would be from G to C. If you want a Gospel music sounding chord, you can change the G to that of G13.
The 13th is the most frequently used Gospel music chord. With its use, you can create different tonalities that are really interesting to listen to. However, if you are playing Gospel songs using the piano, some tones may readily be at variant with other tones. This is called clash, and sometimes, it is good to make use of clash; while there are instances that the use of clash isn’t good enough. Clash happens when two notes are half-step apart.
You should learn the Gospel piano scales if you want to become an able Gospel music player. It is imperative to learn these scales. They will surely come in handy when you are asked to play various Gospel music, and you would surely find it easy to breeze through any Gospel music piece without a hitch if you know them. As the scale is made of notes that are organized in a particular sequence, you will notice that it has an eight-note sequence. The first note is called the root or tonic note, while the last note is aptly called the “octave.”
What Are the Basic Chords for Gospel Music?
Each scale has an accompanying chord. Moreover, there are minor and major augmented or diminished chords that you should memorize. Facility with these chords can readily help you play Gospel music. At the onset, you should memorize the major chords which include C,D,E,F,G,A,B, and C. The C Major chord consists of the following notes: C,E, and G. You can also create a chord using these three notes. If, however, you decrease the third note of the chord by half step, you end up having a minor chord. Minor chords vary from Major chords because of their gloomy character. They are, however, easy to create and all you must do is lower the third note.
Arpeggios is the act of playing chords in which every tone or note is separately played. Staccato, on the other hand, requires playing the notes crisply and quickly. You play each note likewise separate from each other. Legato playing, however, is a type of playing wherein the fingers are not lifted off from the keys. They also barely lose contact with the keys. It’s as if your fingers are simply gliding swiftly from a note to another note.
Where Do You Perform Gospel Music?
Gospel music is usually performed for different occasions and purposes. More often, it is played during worship services. The context may be different, but it is always in a religious context. Hence, it requires religious passion at the same time.
The chords of Gospel music are not different from regular piano chords you usually play. The context, however, is different because it has a religious connotation that requires you to fit your style of playing to the upliftment of the consciousness of the congregation. Chords are pleasant sounds that consist of three notes which are aptly called triads that are usually formed by utilizing the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of any scale. You should master all the major and minor chords so that you can play some of the songs easily and nicely.
Gospel Music and Its Subgenres
Gospel music has subgenres. First, there is the Christian Country Music that has a country flair. This subgenre is also known as inspirational country music. There is also the British Black Gospel which is a Gospel music of African origin. It is also called urban contemporary Gospel music.