You Are Entering The “NO TRANSPOSE BUTTON” Zone

Modern technology is an awe inspiring thing. When I see cell phone getting more and more sophisticated, mp3 players that can play video, and keyboards that produce sounds that can mimic a 100 piece symphony my head spins at the possibilities of such devices. This technology has allowed people to do things and communicate in ways previously only seen in cartoons or on Star Trek.

As a musician we now have so much that can help us in our efforts to become better at our craft. Thus technology is a good thing-or is it? I have been in awe of a certain keyboardist for years because of their wonderful ability to play and play anything-or so I thought. One day I mustered enough courage to ask this musician to explain what they just played as well as how they practice. Well, this musician only played by ear, which is fine, but she could not explain what she was doing nor did she wish to know what she was doing. So I asked her what key she was in, and she told me that she was playing in C, but the song was in Bb! I, not understanding the concept of the “transpose button” on a keyboard, asked her how that was possible? She then showed me how she did that! Amazing! What a cool invention until I really thought about it. You see I realized that I had been fooled! So had many others too.  She was playing everything in C and using the transpose button to make it sound like Ab etc.

I was so disappointed after that conversation, because not only was she using the “button” she was sure she did not need any other training or knowledge! I don’t think transposing is a good habit to form because to me it is deceitful.  If I can not play the song in a certain key then I practice until I can.  I do what it takes to learn al 12 keys.  I refuse to “fake” through a service because I am too lazy to learn to play skillfully.  I am not saying that musicians who can not play in all 12 keys are fakes, only the ones who perpetrate and do not want to learn.  I know musicians who use it in order to keep the flow of a service, but they are learning to play in those keys that are unfamiliar to them.

I call that button the “abominable button” because I that is how we as God’s musicians should think of it. It will become a crutch that will hinder your growth as a church musician.  What if you go to a church that only has a piano? What would you do if you have been “transposing” the keyboard?  You would be embarrassed to say the least! Don’t let this happen to you; learn all 12 keys. Start slowly by playing common progressions in one or two new keys per week. Before you know it you will be playing all of your favorite songs in any key you please!

Tell me your thoughts on this subject.  Are “transposers” real musicians?  Should they get paid to play when they have no intention of learning more? Hmmmmmmm?


Unexpected Benefits of CCLI

After writing the article “Legally Singing Music in Your Church” , I went back to the CCLI website to explore the updates that they have made. I must say I was quite surprised to see some of the things that are truly helpful and such a blessing!

As a member of CCLI, you also have access to chord charts and lead sheets to the songs in their data base. You will not be disappointed with the selection of music to choose from. This is a church musicians dream!

The first thing I looked at, of course, was the license manual located here. This is where you go to double check your own compliance with the copyright laws. It is definitely the place you need to read and understand fully to implement the steps needed to come into compliance or to stay in compliance with the laws.

Next I visited CCLITV. Now that area is awesome! This is an area you will spend a lot of time in just watching and learning from the teaching videos. There are videos done by some of the best musicians in the business, and they are teaching things that you can’t find in most books. I liked “Dynamics VS. Tempo”, and then I saw “Piano Players vs. Guitar Players”. The last lesson is a guitar lesson, but as a keyboardist it helped me tremendously with understanding how guitarists think and how they approach music. This also helped me to integrate some techniques that will help our praise band “gel” together even more.

I encourage you to go there for yourself and explore the articles, songs, lessons, and advice that this site has to offer. Let it bless you and encourage you. I was definitely helped so much, and I know you will be too!

Legally Singing Songs in Church Services

This is a quote form a popular music learning website for church musicians:

If your church sings songs that someone else recorded and you are not paying royalties via CCLI, you are a thief and a robber.

You can not legally display the words in public nor perform music without paying royalties.

You really can’t even show videos to your youth group or bible study group without paying royalties either. Churches must also join CVLI (Christian Video Licensing Inc).

How do you think gospel songwriters get paid? If your church is not a member of CCLI, you can join at

CCLI stands for Christian Copyrights Licensing Inc.

My church pays around $250 a year and we LEGALLY have access to the music that you hear and see on the radio and tv. Every three years they ask you to send them the list of the songs that you sing in worship so the people that actually wrote the songs you love to sing can get their royalty check (money for writing the song).

There are tons of benefits that go along with being a member of CCLI. There is access to thousands of songs with not just the lyrics but the chord progressions and lead sheets also (the words with the symbols for the chord progressions over them).

If you are not a member and do not plan on being a member, I pray that you realize that you are illegally stealing music and you can not play the role that you didn’t know.

This is an area that our black churches definitely have dropped the ball. I pray that you align yourself with the legal practices of our country regarding the music that you sing in church.

If your church can not afford to do this at the time, please refrain from singing copy written music from the artists/songwriters that you can’t afford to pay until you can.

Right is right and wrong is wrong. Please if your church is out of alignment, do the right thing and join.


I quoted this post from the site because I believe that Mr. Sparrow makes a strong case for churches doing what is right when it comes to the law of the land. As a believer I do not think we should knowingly break laws and set an example of breaking the law in our churches. This thread became a hot topic on the site with many varying opinions on the legal implications involved in conducting praise and worship in our services.

Whether we agree with the law or not is a mute point in the eyes of God. What does the Bible have to say concerning this? Matthew 22:21 states “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” That should end the debate right there. It does not matter that I “feel” the law is unfair, pointless, or a waste of time and money, but that I am yielding to the Word of God no matter what. My hear says I love God, and I will do what He wills. Make sure your heart is right concerning this, and if your church is not in compliance with this law make it a priority to go to your pastor to be right with God in this area.

The link above will take you to the CCLI website so that you may see the rules and laws about what you can and can not do. Take this seriously, because I don’t want to see any church come under a lawsuit that will cost them so much more than the yearly fee to cover their use of others songs and lyrics. I was told that this did happen to a church to the tune of about 300,000 dollars. (I have not verified this information yet) My point is that you do not want to give the enemy place to shut down your church over something like not making sure you are obeying the law in this area. May it not be named among us!

What do you think about all of this? Post your comments here and let me know what you think.

Being on Board

As church musicians we are not hirelings. I mean we should not play for a check or for gas money. We should know that we minister to souls, and we answer to God. Do you have a Minister of Music over you? If you do then you need to make sure that you are on board with the vision for the choir/Praise and Worship Team. Pray everyday that you are a help and not a hindrance to God’s work through the music ministry. If there is something bothering you, do not hesitate to take it to God in prayer then speak to the MOM or the Director. If there is still a problem then you will need to take it to your pastor, and remember that He/She will have the last say. So make sure you are ready to submit to whatever is decided by your pastor.

Ask questions and make sure you know what is expected of you. If there is not a manual or policy book for the music ministry, suggest that one be made so you all can be on one accord. This will nip any confusion and misunderstandings in the bud! Also let those in charge know what you need from them too because they can not read your mind. Don’t sulk and complain about something you never addressed directly! As a matter of fact, don’t sulk or complain at all to anyone about anything. The only people that need to know there is a problem or concern is God, and the other person the situation involves. Never go around whispering about what you “think” should be done etc.; that is exactly what the devil wants you to do to bring division to the ministry. Do not become the devil’s tool!

Grow in God

Sometimes you may be frustrated by not being able to play like you think you should, or how others think you should. Do not let frustration deter you from continuing to obey God. When you are called to become a church musician, God does not judge your ability, but He judges your heart. We must maintain our relationship with Him as we are learning our craft. Don’t have a greater relationship with your keyboard than you do with God! Make sure you spend time with God in the Word and prayer everyday to maintain your relationship with Him. The only way you get through the rough times in ministry is to rely on Him. I can not stress how important prayer is! Do not neglect your relationship with God.

Have Fun Today

Last night as I was playing the keyboard, I stumbled upon a few chords that sounded like “Conjunction Junction” from School House Rock. I kept it up and finally came up with a decent sounding rendition of this song and it was fun! I believe that you need to make sure that you just play without worrying about getting it right. You will be amazed at what you come up with. It is during these times that I find many new chords and different ways to play progressions.

I picked a drum pattern on my keyboard and just started playing. First the tune was just simple then I began adding some other things in. Sometimes the additions worked, and sometimes they didn’t work. The point is I learned a lot during this time that I wrote down for future reference. Keep a notebook handy during practice times so that you can write down what you learned. Writing it down really helps you to retain the information better.

Keep practicing and growing no matter what, and especially when you feel like you are going nowhere fast. Believe it or not you are learning more than you can even imagine. Happy learning!

Oh I bet you want the chords to that old Saturday morning favorite “Conjunction Junction” don’t you? Well here they are:

G7-G7/F-C/E-Eb7-G/D-C#dim-C-D7-G Happy Playing!

Getting the Most From Your Practice

Wow, I have had quite an adventure lately to say the least. I am so happy to be back to my blog now I can’t decide where to begin. I will be adding another lesson on music theory this week, so come back and have fun learning the basics of playing music.

Practicing for Results

Many musicians make the mistake of thinking that practice has to be a boring and tedious task. That is not so, and if you feel that way you won’t accomplish much but frustration. Today I a going to give you a practice routine that will keep you interested and progressing. You only need at least one hour per day to do this particular routine. I recommend practicing at the very least one hour per day.

Do not make the mistake of only practicing what is familiar! If you normally play in C, make sure you play in Db or B. Learn a new chord and play it in all keys. When you learn a new progression, play it in your most unfamiliar keys. If you only play by ear then spend some time learning to read music. Likewise if you only read music make sure you spend some time learning to play by ear. Doing these things everyday will yield awe inspiring results in the months to come. So on to the routine. Remember that this is just a sample, you may need to adapt it to fit where you are in your learning. If you are unsure how to apply this to you, then just drop me a line, and I will help you with a routine that will work for you.

What to practice:
Technique: 25 min. total

  • scales: Play all 12 (or the ones you know) everyday for 5min.
  • Hanon exercises: These are exercises that you do to strengthen your hands and fingers. You can find them here for free. 20 min.

The goal here is to develop finger dexterity and strengthen your hands. Don’t over do it practicing technique exercises. Keep to around 25-30 min.

Chords: 10 min total

  • practice basic diatonic chords in at least 3-4 keys in both hands: Maj,min,dim,aug for 5 min. You may either practice triads or sevenths. (more on these later)
  • Pick one new chord type from a good chord book or here and play it in all of its inversions in 2 keys 5 min. Link to diatonic chords and more

Style: 15 min.

  • If you own any books or teaching dvd’s on gospel, jazz, blues etc. Practice one concept from your book or go here and find one concept to print and practice. 5 min.
  • Pick a different style and practice one concept from that source 5 min.
  • Try to transpose those concepts to at least one other key
  • play one progression through your 2 most unfamiliar keys 5min.

Reading:10 min.

  • Pick one hymn to learn to read and play it as written. If you already read then pick a hymn you do not know and sight read it. If you know nothing at all about reading music then go here for help with that. Reading is not essential, but it makes your learning much more productive when you can take a song written out and analyze it for the chords to play.

Then just play! I mean just play what ever you want to play and pretend you are playing for others when you do this. You need this step in order to really benefit from your practice. Experiment or just worship during this time.

Remember this is just an example, and you may not be able to do any of those things yet. That is ok make sure that you at least play your scales everyday and any song you are working on. You will begin to see real progress as you approach your practice this way. Happy learning!

Play To Worship HIm

Who are we playing for? I think this is a question that we must ask ourselves daily just as we ask whose are we. We as Christians believe that we belong to God because we have been bought with at price we are not our own. It stands to reason then that just as God has given us these gifts that He intends to get the Glory. We play to worship Him! If we are honest, we will see that pride that tries to rear its ugly head and make us play to impress someone at times. This is a very real struggle, but God gives us the grace to get our hearts and minds on Him. To look to Him as our source and supply. He is the one and only one that we should be concerned about. He knows that we are frail and that is why He sent us Jesus. If we trust Him and what He did for us on the cross, then we are well able to continue in humility and pureness of heart toward Him. Pray for humility and pureness of heart everyday and watch and see your worship begin to go to another level.

So as we learn and grow in the technical aspects of music and harmony let us not forget to learn and grow in the spiritual aspects of the Word and prayer.