I’m just starting out playing pads during worship at church after coming from a piano background. When playing along with a lead pianist do I follow along with the chords he/she is playing exactly? I feel that it is moving too fast for a background pad. Or do I just pick four chords from the key the song is in and just play softly?

Thanks for your help!


You can pick some chords and play softly - but it will sound not good when you change chord and the others don't. Follow the chart that's being played, and change chords when the others change. You can keep them simple - triads will suffice, but be careful to use minors and majors when appropriate. Also be aware thhat when there's a ♭5 chord, you shoulddn't be playing the normal 5 for that - it's flat.

Eventually, if you want to add in some extra notes, as in changed chords with extensions, or slash notes, they can go into the mix.

But initially, ask the lead pianist what he prefers under what he plays - and that might vary a lot number to number. Always listen to what's going on, and be prepared to play something that adds to the song rather than fills it too much.

  • "be prepared to play something that adds to the song rather than fills it too much." That's a good jam thinking also! – Tom Oct 23 '20 at 11:51

"chord" is likely too much. Think "interval", like fifths and octaves. Likely the root of the key. Get to know the sustain pedal but keep listening. And ask the pianist and worship leader for more instruction; that's what they're there for.

  • I will try that. What I’m wondering is, do I follow the chord progressions or is there a way to play a pad that does not need to be on tempo or chord progressions specific? I really appreciate your help! – luke bouch Oct 23 '20 at 3:37
  • Good idea! Just play the 3rd and 5th or try a counterpoint. – Albrecht Hügli Oct 23 '20 at 13:35

It is difficult to improvise an accompaniment during a sermon, because you never know what chords the pianist or organist are playing. (Some chorales change the chord on each syllable, while worship songs usually have simpler harmonizations easy to accompany.)

You must ask the liste of the songs in program and exchange a lead sheet for coordination with the other musicians before the service. Then it doesn‘t matter how differentiated yours arrangements are: you can accompany most songs with tonic, subdominant, dominant, secondary dominant and relative chords I IV V ... V/V, vi and V7/vi

If you „play“ a rest when the harmony changes to quickly this will make your accompaniment more interesting.

  • I appreciate all the input. I will try all of your suggestions. Thanks – luke bouch Oct 23 '20 at 13:42

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