One of the treats of this conference is having the prolific composer Mark Hayes here (his first time at the national convention) to present a workshop on creating transitions and flow in worship at the piano. He has over 1,000 published works! On a personal note, I grew up on Mark Hayes’ piano arrangements of hymns and praise songs. I still have my original, very tattered, books and treasure all that I learned because of how inspired I was to learn his music!
Mark is a huge believer in the importance of classical music and reading music, but he thinks it’s very rewarding to be able to give students tools and ideas to play beyond the printed page. He got his experience learning to improvise in a church setting, so his primary goal is to create a worshipful atmosphere.
Music is inherently emotional. It comes into our minds and hearts in a way that words alone do not.
The instruction began with a couple of examples of transitions that can be used to create fill music and move from one song to another.
1. Find a pattern that you can play in your left hand without having to think about it. This creates the foundation.
2. In the right hand you can play any note that is in the key signature and that sounds good to your ear. This helps develop a sense of taste.
3. An easy way to add color to a chord is by adding the 2 to the chord.
Mark demonstrated using a four-measure chord progression from the I-vi7-IV2-IV/V. In each case the first and fifth note of the scale are included in each chord. He had half of the audience sing “ah” on D and the other sing “ah” on A, then proceeded to improvise on this chord progression in the key of D.
The second half of the session dealt with playing modulations for congregational worship music. Often times the last thing musicians and bands think about is how to start and end when they are playing. This has the effect of sounding like a glorified jam session. He passed out a sheet of specific chord modulations that can be used to transition between songs. He is a big advocate for connecting music in a worship service.
“Many times the only thing that limits our creativity is disbelief, doubt that we can actually do it.”
In a nutshell: thinking through the theory has to happen ahead of time during practice, but then you have to put in enough time working on these skills so that it becomes muscle memory.
[The handout from this session can be obtained by contacting Mark’s secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org.]