How Great Thou Art- Focused Tutorial

This is definitely one of my favorite hymns to play congregationally. I love the energy and power behind the text, and the music perfectly complements that. This is a great piece to practice adding variety to your hymn-playing. Continue working on playing each verse slightly differently than the one before, building to the final verse.

Even if some of the techniques below are too challenging for you right now, you can still get some great ideas to add to your own playing.


It Is Well with My Soul- Focused Tutorial

A couple months ago, I filmed a few focused tutorials, covering just one hymn each. Here’s the first in that series- “It Is Well with My Soul.” I go through each verse slowly, explaining my thought process for the different techniques and fill-ins I use.

Do your best to avoid getting into a rut in your hymn-playing. Think THROUGH the text as you play. Don’t just think about playing the right notes. I know that’s easy to do, and believe me– on songs with difficult chord progressions (ex. “Jesus Is Coming Again,”), sometimes I find myself thinking more about playing the right notes than communicating a message through the text. 🙂

Think of each hymn you play as a sacred arrangement. What can you do to make each verse slightly different than the one before?

Enjoy the video! Subscribe to my YouTube channel so you’ll never miss a video! We’ve got some exciting things in the works and I can’t wait to share it all with you!

New Hymn Collection on YouTube!


This collection of spontaneous hymn arrangements was so much fun. I just turned through the hymnal, and played some favorites. Most of the arrangements are around a minute long, so we can use them on our Instagram page, @beautynblacknwhite, so that explains why a couple cut off before the song was done. 🙂 If I realized I was going too far over the minute, I would just stop and change songs!

Do you find it difficult to keep your congregational playing fresh? Do you feel like you play every invitational hymn the exact…same…way? I encourage you to listen to other pianists. Notice things you like, and even things you don’t like. You can learn something from everyone!

Keep practicing! Enjoy this collection!

Giving Your Preludes a Theme

Hey church pianists,

Do you theme your preludes or just play whatever comes to mind? I’ll admit I do a little of both. Sometimes, I theme a prelude around key changes, moving through the Circle of 5ths, or moving up half steps or whole steps. Other times, I play songs from one theme of Scripture, such as God’s Power (“All Hail the Power,” “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” “O Worship the King,” etc…) the Cross (“Old Rugged Cross,” “At the Cross,” “Jesus Paid it All,” “The Way of the Cross Leads Home”), or His Name (“Blessed be the Name,” “His Name is Wonderful,” “There’s Just Something about That Name”). Theming by Biblical concepts such as Grace, Trusting Christ, His Love, the Blood, Heaven, His Glory, and Revival are also great ideas.

This week, I’ve been thinking about how God is a refuge in times of storms. Our area is expected to be significantly affected by Hurricane Florence, and we are all preparing as best we can. But ultimately, safety is of the Lord. This morning, I meditated on the concept of His grace during storms. Below, you’ll see a medley of hymns all about that topic. This would work well as a prelude, for it draws our attention not to the storm, but to the God of the storm, Who is in control!

When you prepare a prelude, don’t just play twelve verses of one song before the pastor or music minister opens the service. Think about how the songs could prepare the congregation’s hearts to worship. How can your prelude help YOU prepare to worship?

Also, if you’re not doing preludes, if you just wait until the music minister walks to the platform before you play a note, please start. You can keep it simple at first. Pick two songs that work well together. Play no more than three verses of the same song in the same key. If you do more than three verses of a hymn, change keys. Play no more than four verses of one hymn. If you play a five minute prelude, have at least two hymns prepared.

Good opening music energizes an audience and helps us all anchor our thoughts on things above. As the pianist, you have a great opportunity to start the service off in a spirit of worship. Take it seriously, and do your best! 🙂

I’ll share some more thoughts on preludes later, but for now, enjoy this hymn medley!

New Tutorial on YouTube!

This afternoon, we went live on our Instagram page, @beautynblacknwhite, for a Q&A session on hymn-playing. These tutorials are so much fun for me! I absolutely love answering your questions about hymn-playing on such a wide range of topics. When we ended, I couldn’t believe that we had been live for more than 40 minutes! The time flies by when I’m sharing about something I love so much!

A couple main points from the video:

  1. For a beginner hymn-player- aim to play three or four notes in your right hand as quickly as possible. Identify the chord you’re playing, play all three notes, and octave the melody, giving you four notes. If you’re not ready for that octave, play three notes of the chord in your right hand.
  2. Octave the left hand as soon as possible as well. Don’t think “octave-chord” pattern all the time. Think of ways to connect your left hand notes with octave scales, outlining the chord (explained in the video), and some chording as well.
  3. Use a different style for invitational hymns. Play lighter and softer. Use more of a rolling pattern in your left hand- broken chords, slow arpeggios, etc…
  4. Learn to read music. Even if you’re an accomplished pianist who plays by ear, discipline yourself to learn to read the notes. Basic hymn-reading will serve you well.
  5. Parents, if your child demonstrates an ear at a young age, foster it, but continue making them develop a strong theoretical music foundation built on good technique and note-reading. Let them play a little by ear for fun, but make sure they understand that developing a strong foundation is essential! 🙂