Sing. Play. Edify.

Piano Tutorials


These are a series of video tutorials intended to teach pianists how to play from chord charts and lead sheets. You can watch all 25 videos in the series by navigating the playlist to the right of the video.

You can also see these principles in action by watching the 3-part piano demo videos for 13 congregational songs. The list is below, with links.


About This Video Tutorial Series

We’ve made available a series of video tutorials on how to play piano in a contemporary church music style. Many pianists have some formal training but don’t necessarily feel comfortable playing from chord charts and lead sheets. This tutorial series is intended to present some helpful principles along with specific examples.

A couple things:

  • First, as with all styles of music, the internal sets of rules and patterns we’re following are descriptive, not prescriptive. That is to say, musical styles should be somewhat internally consistent. When I explain in a later video that we almost never play a V7 chord, that doesn’t mean you can’t. It means we don’t. And when a V7 chord pops up, it sticks out – right or wrong – because it’s a departure from the style we use. It’s wise to understand the boundaries and behaviors of a particular musical style so you can make informed decisions about when and how to change them.
  • The musical style presented here is admittedly somewhat culturally and generationally bound. That is, it’s the style of music we use at our church and teach to our young musicians. But we’ve sought out a style that we hope has characteristics that are universally desirable: clean textures, rhythm that moves forward but doesn’t dominate, and careful attention to the ways that melodies and counter-melodies work together.
  • These tutorials assume a basic understanding of chords and keys, as well as some degree of facility in playing. If you want some basics on chords, read this. If you want to go deeper with music theory, take this course. If you want to learn to play piano… take lessons and practice.
  • Finally, it’s helpful to use both imitation and comprehension when learning to play in this style. The first set of tutorials gives you the big picture in three categories (and in this order): harmony, rhythm, and melody. I discuss various aspects of each of these categories so you can apply them yourself. The second set of tutorials is based on imitation: I play songs in the style with occasional commentary. Both are part of the learning process.


List of Tutorial Topics

1. Introduction
2. Voicing triads
3. Voicing seventh chords
4. Altering the third
5. Adding the maj7 and 9
5.2. Altering the V7 to Vsus7
6. Drop-third and -fifth chords
6.2. The primary chords: I, IV, and V
6.3. The secondary chords: vi7, ii7, and iii7
7. Voicing common tones
8. Planning the top note
9. Developing RH melodies
10. The bass line and 1st-inversion chords
11. The bass line and 2nd-inversion chords
12. The steady pulse
13. Straight rhythms, continued
14. Syncopations in 4/4 time
15. Common rhythms in 3/4
16. Common rhythms in 6/8
17. The Copland chord
18. Fills, part 1
19. Fills, part 2
20. Intros
21. Interludes and outros
22. Playing with others