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Hey everyone so I have kind of a loaded question here. And I can understand if there's no easy answer to it, but I've been asked to learn to play the piano by my church so we can get a choir started in our branch. I already know how to read the choir music from prior experiences with mostly trumpet and trombone, and can translate single notes to piano. The problem is, if I want to play along with the choir I have to know more than just the single chords for Soprano/Alto and Tenor/Bass for them to sing to.

I was told before a couple of years back when I entertained the notion that I'd have to learn about chords. So I've been doing a lot of research and even learned about finger numbering (which helped out a lot). But the issue I keep running into is that in order for me to truly learn about chords or adding to a song, I'd have to start from square one and pay a bit for either a book, online courses, or a private tutor. But I already know about which note corresponds to which key and can almost sight read the choir music sheets.

What I was wondering is how can I play along with the choir? Is it just playing each note/word/syllable they sing as a chord? Is it just playing whole and half notes with my left while following along with them on my right? What's really the best way to add like a melody/harmony that will help give a foundation for the choir to work with?

I'm just looking for tips but I want to really find a good place to start practicing from. I don't know I just feel like I'm starting to overthink this and don't want to start on a bad foot.

  • "I'm just looking for tips but I want to really find a good place to start practicing from." Tip and place to start from: Get a teacher!! Also, expect to take lessons and practice daily for at least a couple years before you are effectively accompanying a church choir. – Todd Wilcox Jan 5 '17 at 23:11
  • Well that's all well and good, but he/she wants to start a choir as soon as possible. The answer to the question "I already read music and play a bit of piano, and my church wants to start a choir, what can I learn to facilitate this" can't be "Don't start a choir for years" – Some_Guy Jan 6 '17 at 10:17
  • As someone with minimal piano skills who directed a choir in the past, don't do it until you are better at piano. I used to call on the piano player to play individual parts, or sometimes the Alto and Tenor line together, or maybe the Soprano and Bass together. You need to be able to sight read a fairly good level before you should be playing piano for choir IMO – SaggingRufus Jan 6 '17 at 11:28
  • We don't know what country you are in, but in some places "church music" is notorious for being badly organized and badly performed. The fact that "somebody" (who presumably doesn't know enough about music to do anything useful him/herself) wants to "start a choir" and have everything up and running within a couple of weeks is just not realistic, but people keep trying to do it! – user19146 May 5 '17 at 16:45
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I don't know I just feel like I'm starting to overthink this

I agree here - I can feel your sense of being overwhelmed emanating right off the page... For example:

But the issue I keep running into is that in order for me to truly learn about chords or adding to a song, I'd have to start from square one and pay a bit for either a book, online courses, or a private tutor. But I already know about which note corresponds to which key and can almost sight read the choir music sheets.

So, you're not at all starting from scratch in the sense that you can read music and have years of experience playing another instrument (your brain is used to learning in this way at this point - your fingers and muscle memory are already poised for playing an instrument; whereas a true beginner must learn to physically hold their fingers/hands/body in a proper playing position.)

Also, you can pay for lessons but you do NOT have to - https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=simple+piano

There's your place to start - get those hands on the keys and.... go, go, go. You'll want to be comfortable just "noodling around" on any old tune (eventually, you will be anyway.)

Even simple practice and performance with your choir will improve your skills dramatically everytime you do it. Start there by learning the root chords/triads of the song(s) and simply playing them in whole and half notes, as you mentioned, in order to provide the foundation that they need. In my experience, it's almost always better/easier to have SOMETHING backing you up than going full acapela...

It's good to know and practice the notes of the various parts of the singers; it'll help you with the relationships of the notes to the chord progressions that you are playing. But, I wouldn't recommend just playing along with the melody (for the singers' sakes...) While it is better, again, than going acapela, it feels like just another 'voice' singing-along to the singer - the singer is relying on the chords for reference to the key and the chord changes for reference to timing.

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You could just learn all the hymns from the hymnal. When I've seen accompaniment for church singing, that is the keyboard's role; to provide all the pitches that are being sung. If the choir is singing only a melody, you can supply the alto, tenor, and bass parts along with the melody part from whatever music they are reading from. I kind of doubt that you are being asked to compose a separate piano part from what they are doing.

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