Help playing live

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I play large piano/keyboard and a small organ with a group in our church and all of our music has chord references on the page, so that I know what chords the guitarist are playing. I have never taken any lessons before. Most of the other members have played for years in live rock bands. I work a lot of 12 hour shifts and donít have a lot of time left over for lessons after my wife, four kids and playing at church three or four times each week. Most of the music sounds ok but I canít play a lot of the lead parts that are need in some of the songs. I playing mostly simple block chords in the left and right hand with some lead, I want to play a lot more of the melody variations of the lead parts on the chord with both hands but I donít want to sound like a machine with no heart or soul. Iíve tried using sheet music in the past but most of the members donít need a lot of time to practice for the songs because of their past. I know I need lessons but I need help right now because playing with a live group, they donít practiced most songs but just one time before we play them in Church. I practice at home for most of the songs but our Church has around 500 songs that they play from and all most all are new Christian songs. Can you help me with my problem?

-- Tommy Thomas (tth2615794@aol.com), February 17, 2005

Answers

First of all, good for you for all you're doing, and for trying to improve when you are already so busy! I have a suggestion or two that you might like to try.

First, to make the left hand part more interesting, try spreading out the chord and playing the notes one after the other.

For example, suppose you're in 4/4 time and the first bar is a G chord, the second bar is an E minor. With the left hand you could play Low G on the first beat, then G - D (eighth notes) on beat 2 (use finger 5 and finger 2), then up to B on the 3rd beat (with thumb), then low G - F# (eighth notes) on beat 4 (fingers 3 and 4).

Then for the next bar, start with finger 5 on low E (you've already stepped down there) on beat 1, then beat 2 play E - B eighth notes with fingers 5 and 2, beat 3 is G (stretch up with thumb). Continue doing similar patterns, but change the rhythm somewhat occasionally so you don't sound like a machine.

For the right hand, play the melody using mostly fingers 5,4, and 3 -- use your "lower fingers" to play other notes of the chord. If there's a long note in the melody, sustain it with the pedal and have both hands play the notes of the chord ("arpeggiated" or all spread out).

Another thing a lot of players do is to play the melody in 8ves with the right hand, filling in the chord notes with the middle fingers. This gives a very full sound. If you do that while breaking up the LH chords, it sounds pretty nice.

Hope these tips help. Good luck!

-- Alice (abell88@bloorwestvillage.com), February 17, 2005.


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