Playing Gospel Piano!

So, you’d like to learn to play Gospel piano!   Learning how to play is incredibly fun and satisfying; and you may be surprised at how easy it can be to learn to play, quite proficiently, within only a few short months, or less.   However, like any other talent one might wish to nurture, it requires passionate commitment coupled with on-going practice and patience.

Additionally, it may require a financial obligation to hire a talented instructor who is willing to take the time to methodically guide you.  It may not be easy to actually find a gospel piano teacher, per se,  but with that being said, there are a number of on-line sites as well as piano-playing guide books, available, that can serve as a substitute for an actual instructor, if expenses or locating an instructor become a challenge..  If you are fortunate enough to find a qualified teacher, however, there’s nothing quite like a seasoned gospel piano instructor to guide, reinforce and inspire you as you begin your musical journey!

Assuming you are a novice and have no musical background, learning the notes will, probably, be the most initial, time-intensive area of your study only because there is a good amount of sheer memorization involved.   Other details of your learning experience, aside from notes, scales and chords will include such things as hand positioning and rhythm.


The major and minor chords will serve as the backbone of your entire learning experience.  They will, also, become the foundation of the other chords you’ll need to become familiar with.  Below, is an overview of the chords you’ll need to know; and be aware that ‘lowered’ refers to lowering the note by one semi-tone.

Major and Minor Chords:

1.  Major Chord:  The 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the scale

2.  Minor Chord:  The 1st, lowered 3rd, and 5th notes of the scale

7th Chords:

The 7th chords are built from the major and minor chords.  It is here where you will add the 7th note of the scale and lower it by a semi-tone.

1.  7th Chord:  The 1st, 3rd, 5th and lowered 7th notes of the major scale

2.  Minor 7th Chord:  The 1st, lowered 3rd, 5th, and lowered 7th notes of the major scale

3.  Major 7th Chord:  The 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th notes of the major scale

Suspended Chords:

The suspended chord uses the 4th note instead of the 3rd note.

1.  Suspended Chord:  The 1st, 4th and 5th notes of the major scale

Hand Positioning:

Hand positioning will, actually, become a skill, in itself, and will require a bit of practice to get it ‘just right’.  The basic pointers are:

1.  Both of your hands should be thought of as ‘light as air’, remaining open and very loose.

2.  The tips of your fingers will be doing the playing.

3.  Your thumbs should be touching the keys.

4.  Your arms and shoulders need to be relaxed.

5.  Sitting on the edge of the bench is necessary for correct posture which will, dramatically, affect how your fingers flow over the keys and, ultimately, perform.


Rhythm is a vital part of any musical piece and refers to the pace.  The speed you use to play the notes is a part of the music’s rhythm.  With practice, you will become familiar with how long to hold any given note.  The speed of a musical piece has to do with the beat; and notes that are played ‘long’ or ‘short’ are determined by the beat.

Rhythm, also, is determined by ‘rests’.  These occur in a musical piece where nothing will be played, at all.  Rests are the same as ‘being silent’ for a short amount of time.

As a student, who feels passionate about wanting to play Gospel piano, you’ll discover which musical terms to memorize, why technique, positioning, breathing and poise are vital, how improvisation plays a role in your performance; and you will be introduced to a myriad of other details that will all come together as you become less of a novice and more of a true performer!

Once you’re ready to perform, your unique style will become evident; and you could have your audience mesmerized–even if it’s ‘just family’, at first!

K. Carlson is a writer in the U.S. She writes on many topics including Gospel piano lessons.  Check out Play By Hear at

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