Chord Substitute on “Take Time To Be Holy”

How to Substitute ii Minor instead of V

Here are two links to videos of a piano improvisation lesson that Mr. Neil Craig taught to three sisters, sometime ago. Neil was very kind to give me permission to share them with you. The lesson focuses on substituting a 2 minor chord where the music calls for a V, or V7 chord.

(It was not pre-scripted and it is obviously not edited. You are getting it in raw form – very repetitious. It was just a last minute idea to record something that they could refer back to before their next lesson.)

The basis of this lesson is: where the music calls for a V or V7 chord, at the end of a phrase,  you can play a ii minor and then the V or V7. He also talks briefly about proper voicing (appropriate to the message of the song) when playing chords, and about proper hand position so as not to allow tension to build up (Part 2).

For the beginning improvisor, or even if you’ve done it for a while, and never thought of using the ii minor substitution where the music calls for a V or V7, These are great lessons in chord substitution!

Part one is here:

Part 2 is here:

 

Learning from my own advice

Today, I played an offertory for church. Offertory isn’t my favorite thing to play for. I’d much rather play for the congregation to sing. I am an accompanist, not a soloist. But I was asked to play, and the others who sometimes play, couldn’t, so I agreed to.

I have to add here, I’m not a fan of passing the bag or offering plate. I grew up in a church that had a small wooden box in the back somewhere. We never talked about it and never asked for money, yet God always provided our needs and then some! When I first started coming here and was asked to play offertory, I was a little conflicted, since I personally believe the “brown box” is the better way to go about this. But I came to grips with it for three reasons:

  1. I was giving an offering of my gifts, to the LORD, through worship music.
  2. The music was (usually) a blessing to others, and since, what we do to the least of these, we do to Him, I was blessing Him!
  3. I believed in the work the church was funding with the monies the collected.

I usually have this honor once a month, but was asked to do it two weeks in a row (last week, and this week). Last week, I played a rousing rendition of “Wonderful Grace Of Jesus” which wasn’t close to perfect, but many people were impressed with. Jim, our assistant Pastor, commented, “Now that is what I call an offertory!” Even as I walked in this morning, a week later, several people complimented me about it. I should’ve taken that as a hint.

Feeling just a little too good about last week’s offertory, I couldn’t think of what I should play this week. Even when I got to church, I hadn’t figured it out. In the past, often, I will have picked out a hymn or gospel song, and worked up some arrangement for it, and when it came time, a  still, small but firm voice, says, “Don’t play that one. Play this one instead.” Sometimes I listen to this, and sometimes I don’t. When I have listened, often people have come up and told me how they were blessed. And then I am blessed that they were blessed, and I think it was what’s called a double blessing! When I don’t listen, bad things happen. :/
Such was today. I wasn’t sure what to play. Several hymns stood out, but I kept comparing them with last week’s offertory song, and well, it’s hard to top Wonderful Grace Of Jesus! But that’s where I kept getting derailed.

It’s not about what the people think is it? Who am I really playing for, the congregation, or the King of kings?

As the time came to decide, I chose to do one of my all-time favorite hymns: I Am His, and He Is Mine. When I opened the hymnal to that page, (as I do to follow the words while I play) the opposite page was, A Child Of The King. I heard that still, small voice again:

“Play that instead.”

“But I don’t really know how to do that one so well, LORD, and it only has like three chords in it (okay, maybe more, but it’s not a terribly exciting melody!”

“So?” 

“…and this one is my favorite- I know how to play it, and make it sound good!”

“So you are more worried about impressing men, huh? Okay. Go ahead.”

The prayer was ending…it was time to choose: Child of the King, or I Am His, and He is Mine…?

And I chose.

I wish I could say that I was playing to bring honor to my LORD, but sadly, I let my pride get the better of me. It was awful: It sounded horrible, and I was nervous because I was worried about what people were thinking. I felt all 500 eyes on me. I stumbled. I forgot what key I was in at the middle of the last line. I recovered the best I could and ended what was once a beautiful hymn, that I had destroyed by distracting from the message of the song. I wasn’t playing to my LORD, I was trying to play to the crowd, and miserably failing at worshiping the LORD!

Folks, don’t make the same mistake I made! Whether it’s an offertory, special number, living room session, or accompanying a thousand people, your audience as a minister in the house of the LORD, is always God the Father. It’s not Mom or Dad, or uncles, aunts, friends, family, or anyone else. It’s God, and God alone!

If I could encourage you in one thing only, it would be to not worry about what anyone else thinks, but to honor the LORD with all you have been given, whether that is time, talent, wealth, family, or anything else that is “yours”. It all really belongs to Him, for all things are created by and for Him, and He is before all things. And it is by Him alone, that all things consist. (Colossians 1:16–17)

Now go and bless the LORD!

 

 

 

Improvisation on Allelu, Allelu (Praise Ye The LORD)

Here’s an improvisation for you!

Last Sunday, as I was playing the organ at church, we did the chorus, “Alleu, Allelu”. On the second time around, one of our very capable pianists played this variation, and it worked well! It sounded really neat, so I asked what it was she played, and she sent me this and said I could share this with you. This is an arpeggiated improvisation in triplets.

(This improvisation is courtesy of Katelyn Osborne)

Allelu-Allelu

Announcing: Powerful Praise! -A conference for music ministers

Mark your calendars! Hymnprovisation.com is excited to present:

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Photo credit: T.Spang, cropped.

A conference for music ministers striving to “Make God’s Praise Glorious!” (Ps. 66:2)

June 1-3, 2016

Spokane, WA/Coeur d’ Alene area

Conference Webpage

High quality, hands-on instruction by dynamic music ministers in the following fields:

  • Song leading/Choir/Orchestra directing
  • Vocal Training
  • Congregational Accompaniment (piano)
  • Ear training
  • Master classes
  • Arranging
  • And More!

If you lead music, sing, or play for your church, or want to learn these skills, join us on June 1-3 in Spokane, WA for two+ days of instruction in these fields! You won’t be disappointed! This is a hands on class, designed with the intent that you will come away with useful techniques to make excellent music.

We hope to see you there!

Some more thoughts on Worship vs. Entertainment…

Mike Livingstone, on his appropriately named blog, mikelivingstone.com, wrote an article titled, “The Heresy of Worshiptainment”, which caused quite a furor among the church today, and inspired the last article I linked to in my previous post. If you did not click the link to read Livingstone’s piece, I highly recommend you do now!

I wish I had read this one before posting the last one, because even though I don’t appreciate people throwing around the accusation, “heresy” (because most of the time they have no business doing so), I think that Livingstone nailed the church to the wall in this post, as evidenced in part by both the furor and the angry comments received!

It was convicting.

As a minister of music, I have to constantly guard against the pride that I struggle with day after day-especially when the Holy Spirit is moving freely through me and the music coming out is good. I constantly struggle in the desire to please men though, and to “tickle their ears”, by entertaining them. But, while there is, I believe, an appropriate time and place for entertainment, while assisting the congregation in worshipping God, that isn’t my calling. And it’s certainly not the time and place! My calling is to praise the Lord whose name is Holy and Righteous, to bring Him honor in body and in Spirit-in essence, to tickle His ears! It is to assist others in doing so while playing piano accompaniment or even while playing a special or offertory. In fact, my desire is that all men should worship the Lord, rather than me, and sometimes that means I need to stop what I’ve been doing, and be still. I can’t tell you how many times I had prepared something to share as a special or offertory, only to be led by the Spirit at the last minute, to change it. I had prepared all sorts of grand ideas and fancy playing under the guise of it being for the Lord, when it really wasn’t what would’ve brought Him the most glory. Instead, he had me play something totally different, but every time I’ve listed to this still, small, voice saying, “This is the way…” I have had people come up afterward and tell me how blessed they were!

And you know, I am blessed when they are blessed! That means it’s  double the blessing it would’ve been!

All I can say is, Praise the Lord: Give God the glory due unto His name!

 

 

Worship-tainment…wait, what??

I just read this interesting article, chronicling some of the church’s history as an entertainment venue. I’d never really considered it as such before, but I think the author is correct. I suggest reading it with an open mind.

It’s some interesting food for thought: Our houses of Worship (that are supposed to be reserved for worshiping the LORD GOD), have become places of entertainment, many of which hardly differ from a night club or a fancy concert hall. Really, what IS the difference? Concert halls have sacred music in them sometimes. And though I’ve never been in one, I’m quite sure that you can hear about God in a night-club too, albeit, probably in a derogatory manner. But maybe God isn’t all impressed with our huge buildings, light shows, overhead displays, fancy chairs, theater lights, sound systems and so on and so forth. Have we ever really stopped to think about this? What really brings Him praise?

Psalm 50 tells us that He doesn’t despise the broken and contrite in heart;

Psalm 66 tells us to make His praise glorious;

John 4:24 says, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

Jeremiah 29 reminds Israel that if they obeyed the LORD, “…then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.” (vs 12)

Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Brothers and sisters, there are hundreds more like this. None of these verses have anything to do with bands, and fancy lights and smoke machines, or orchestras and pianos and pipe organs either. They have everything to do with the heart. In fact, all of that stuff that is designed for entertainment, is really a distraction most of the time, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be used as ONE channel of blessing and honor to the LORD. It can also become a stench to Him. Can I encourage us all to make sure our hearts are right, so God will will accept our praise? And if you are in a position of leadership, to encourage the congregation to do the same?

 

Exciting Announcements for 2016!

Exciting Announcements for 2016!

Just wanted to write a quick post about some of the exciting things planned for 2016 on Hymnprovisation.com!

First, and I can hardly wait…

I want to let you know about an upcoming workshop on Sacred Worship Music! This isn’t about 18th century stuff or about modern CCM, but about Worship Music, both older and newer, that is both effective, dynamic, awesome, and set apart for the glory of GOD ALONE!

If you play the piano, lead music, sing in church, or do all of the above, this workshop is for you! It will be in the greater Spokane, WA area, and we are tentatively planning it for early Summer. I will let you know just as soon as I have the dates, times, and exact location.

As mentioned, we are hoping to include training on three aspects of church music:

  • Leadership in dynamic directing/conducting.
  • Leadership in singing/vocal training, with group and one on one vocal training by an excellent vocalist and teacher.
  • Leadership in effective and dynamic improvisational accompaniment on the piano, with a nationally known, pianist, teacher,and prolific composer and arranger, whose name will be announced shortly. I promise, you won’t want to miss this class if you are a church pianist!

I can’t say too much more yet, but check back soon as it promises to be an exciting, fun, valuable, informative, and awesome workshop! Our goal is for you to return to your home church, with new tools in your toolbox that you can put to work right away. If this sounds interesting at all to you, please let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to pass on the news to anyone else who might be interested.

 

Second, and almost as exciting as the first announcement:

Keep checking hymnprovisation.com, as we hope to add considerable content, more free music, and a blog post at least once a week. It’s been a little slow getting started, but we are working on bringing you the valuable techniques, and resources for those who want to sharpen their skills and strive for excellence in music. So keep checking back!

 

Last but not least…okay, maybe least!

Don’t be too shocked if the look of things here change in the near future. We wanted to get this up and running, and figured its better to do it now and make it pretty later. So it isn’t the prettiest just yet, but we hope spruce things up just a bit.

So keep us in your bookmarks, and if you would, let us know what you think in the comments below. Suggestions are welcome!

Update on Book!

Update on The Congregational Accompanist’s Handbook, a Primer in Effective Improvisation:

Its a busy week, with Christmas coming up and all, but I needed to update before the end of the year, so for those of you who are wondering, and especially those of you who have taken one of my classes in which I provided you with the preliminary version of the first chapters of the book I’m working on, and told you I hoped to have it out by the end of this year (2015). If you are wondering if I’ve died or fallen off the face of the earth…sorry, I’m still here! Rest assured, I’m still working on it, and you will still receive your copy when it is finished. Sadly I did not meet my goal, and unfortunately, it won’t be done this year (2015). But look for another announcement before the end of the next quarter. You can stay up to date on the progress right here, on hymnprovisation.com, and from time to time I hope to post out of the contents of the book. There is one post up already here!

Current parts (subject to change) include:

1.Introduction-

The basis and background of congregational accompanists, as well as some other resources for honing the skill of improvisation.

2.Theme

This is where the book gets into some general concepts that a congregational accompanist needs to keep in mind while playing.

3.Development

This is the section that highlights over 20  techniques that we can use to to properly convey the message of the songs we play.

4.Recapitulation and Ending.

This is, well, exactly what it sounds like! Here the book wraps up and encourages the student to practice with purpose, being always ready to serve when called on.

Further information can be found on this page.

If there is a specific topic that you would like to learn more about, leave a comment and I’ll see if I can address it either here on this blog, or in the book or both places!

Psalm 100

As I was reading the Psalms the other day, Psalm 100 stood out to me:

PSALM 100

A Psalm of praise.

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.

Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

A joyful noise of praise, a song of gladness…not a mournful, sad, melancholy one. I recently heard that some congregations take Psalms like this to say we should refuse to have minor, or melancholy music in praise to the LORD. Of course other Psalms talk about how terrible God is, and the things He does or will do to His enemies. If we were to just take just Psalm 100, and apply the I-don’t-read-the-rest-of-scripture rule, we would have to rule out the following well-known and very good hymns:

What Child Is This? O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, O The Deep, Deep, Love of Jesus, Once To Every Man and Nation, I’m Just A Poor, Wayfaring Stranger, and Flee As A Bird To Your Mountain, to name just a few!

Or what of a sad words?

Were You There When They Crucified My Lord? Man Of Sorrows, What a Name! When I Survey The Wondrous Cross! Up Calvary’s Mountain, and Abide With Me would be outlawed.

I don’t know about you, but I am not going to throw out these hymns and the hundreds of others that have melodies appropriate to their words.

This Psalm says to me, that we should thank the LORD for His truth, and everlasting mercy, with a glad song of joy. It is a song of praise to our LORD for the greatness of His mercy, not an instructional command that we can never have music appropriate to the words we are singing. In fact, it is the opposite! It is an example of music appropriate to the words: I noticed it did not say, come before the LORD with a sad song of mournfulness for His great mercy and truth. That would have been inappropriate because it goes against nature! The laws of nature which our incredible GOD has so intricately set up include things like music: We know by our spirit, what music is appropriate for the moment.

That being said, could it be true that there is some music, while never appropriate for use of praise to the Holy God, (whose name is Prince of Peace, and who dwells in Holiness and whose Majesty fills the earth and heaven), is appropriate for other things?

Are lullabies appropriate praise to God? How about Opera? What about Military March music? Or Ragtime? Or Love Songs (between man and woman)? or Rock and Roll, or Rap? What about the song of a newborn believer that knows no other kind? Maybe a native somewhere is beating his drum in praise to God who has done great things for him. Is that sinful?  I’m not saying we ought to excuse music that is definitely demonic, rather, let the Spirit of God guide you in your praise to God, and while speaking the truth in love, don’t be too hard on those who have not yet received the measure of grace which you have.

It may be that all of these in some way bring praise to the LORD. I am not qualified to make that statement with authority, but I believe it’s certainly possible!

One other thing written in the Psalms comes to mind as I wrap this up. Psalm 66:1-2 tells the reader, “Make a joyful noise unto God all ye lands: Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious.”

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” -Colossians 3:15

This much we know we should do!

Is There A Right or Wrong way to worship?

Is there a right or wrong way to worship?

Ah, such an emotionally charged subject! But as those who claim to worship God, shouldn’t we know the answer to this question?

Is it with a certain form or style?

Is it with any style as long as it is considered worship by the one doing it?

Is there a right and a wrong, or is it amoral (neither right nor wrong)?

What/who defines that?

Is a certain kind or style of worship okay for one to do, and not for another?

First of all, we have to understand that worship does not necessarily mean music is involved. In fact, most of the time, when someone in the bible was described as worshiping God, there is no mention of music.

We read of several accounts in scripture, where people attempted to worship God, and God did not respect their attempts. Three well known ones are:

Cain vs. Abel’s worship in Genesis 4:1-5, as well as Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-3). Then there was King Saul, who disobeyed the direct command of the LORD in the name of offering a sacrifice (1 Samuel 15). In the New Testament, we read of the Scribes and Pharisees, whom the LORD rebuked in Matthew 23, saying in part,

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Matt 23:27-28)

And there were the Saducees, who denied the resurrection (is that worship?), and the Samaritans, who didn’t get a long with the others, but were adamant about how and where to worship, while missing the point altogether, which Jesus aptly made clear in the parable of the good Samaritan and also in his conversation with the woman at the well, where He says something interesting:

“The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” -John 4:19-24

All these religious people thought they were worshiping the LORD, yet they were falling miserably short of anything close to true worship. Later, we read of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, who were not worshiping the LORD with their finances, but held part of it back when they really didn’t have to give anything. This was also a form of false worship, neither in spirit or in truth, but meant to be seen of and admired by men. God wasn’t impressed, and they died because of it.

Another interesting account out of the old testament, is when Moses was up in the mountain with Joshua, receiving the commandments of the LORD, and the people down in the camp turned away from God. You can read about it in Exodus 32. Joshua thought it sounded “like the noise of war in the camp” Moses, after listening, determined it wasn’t the noise of war, but the noise of them that defile themselves. I know, in King James, and most versions, it says “the noise of them that sing.” But look at the words used in Hebrew. They are according to Strongs:

קוֹל -qowl: Sound, Noise Voice, Thunderings, Proclamation, etc. Its usage appears to carry the tone of frivolity or festivity.

עָנָה -‘anah: out of the 84 times it’s translated, only two are translated “Sing”.  All the others are, Afflict, Humble, Force, Exercised, Weakened, Troubled. I think its safe to say, wasn’t a positive thing and Moses wasn’t thinking about praise to the LORD God, when he heard it. 

 שָׁמַע -Shama’: To Hear, Be Heared, Listen to, Call, Summon.

It wasn’t music, noise, or sound, the LORD was pleased with: it was in worship to a golden image they had just made! I found it fascinating that Joshua thought it sounded like war! Moses realized it wasn’t war, but it wasn’t proper praise music either- it was the sound of people who had defiled themselves by praising a golden calf they had just made! This is just one example of how the world brings praise, vs. how a man of God such as Moses or Joshua would.  God wasn’t to happy with the people whom He had brought out of Egypt, and who had turned away from Him and nearly destroyed all of them. In the end, the worshippers of this false God died at the end of the sword.

Worship of God is a serious thing. God is not an overstuffed teddy bear in the sky, He is “The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty…18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” (Revelation 1:8,18)

When John saw and heard these things, he fell down on his face and worshiped. When Moses saw a burning bush and heard the voice of God, he covered his face, “lest he see the face of God.” This cavalier attitude we have today in Christendom, is born, not out of true worship, but really out of unbelief. We don’t really believe He is who we say He is. If we did, out lives would be remarkably changed. We would be obedient before trying to offer sacrifices of praise.

The Apostle Paul said it clearly:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable, unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)

According to Paul here, God accepts a life that is a living sacrifice, holy (set apart) from the conformance of the rest of the world. This is good, acceptable, and the perfect will of God. When applied to worship, whether in personal sacrifice, in words, in music, in dance, or any other expression of worship, if it isn’t significantly different than the way the world does it (and not just different, but holy, pure, peaceable, and theologically sound), than perhaps we are putting on a show for man which is really an abomination to God.

Let’s take a moment to make sure our worship isn’t tainted by the ways of the world, but is set apart for God, and God alone, sacred, holy, pure, lovely and acceptable to God.