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I would like to firstly apologize for this lengthy post. I just want to give a background to my question.

I am not, by any means, a professional pianist. I do not have a Music Degree to boast of, all I have is 8 years of piano lessons under my belt when I was younger. Currently, I am a musician at our church and a fledgling songwriter & arranger. I'm taking online lessons for it, and I have to say, I find a lot of things very hard to understand but oh so worth the time and effort to learn.

I've been a pianist/ accompanist in my church for 16 years now ( I started when I was 14 years old). Around 5 years ago, my pastor told me to try my hand at creating orchestral arrangements for choir songs. I still do up to this day, hence the need for lessons. I've just noticed that I've been having a hard time being creative in composing & arranging, ever since my Music Director told me not to accompany our singers and/or the congregation anymore during church service. Even during choir and orchestra rehearsals, I am not allowed to accompany them anymore. The reason she said was, "... so you can focus more on arranging, and not be tired from rehearsals."

I do not have a piano or keyboard at home anymore, since it was donated. So, the only place I could practice or play piano was at my church. But ever since she "banned" me from playing, even for practice or just a simple personal jamming session, I have not had the opportunity to actually play the piano for several months now.

And now, I've been constantly suffering from creativity block. Arranging songs used to be exciting, I always looked forward to applying the new things I learned. But now I feel frustrated and pressured because I have to release arrangements weekly for the choir. And I've just felt more burnt-out then before when I still used to play for the choir/ congregation. Sure, it was tiring but I always felt happy and inspired after.

So does my lack of piano playing have anything to do with my creativity block? I've tried asking this to other musicians I know, but they just said to heed what my Music Director says. Or maybe I've just been asking the wrong people..

I hope someone can shed light on this and provide both subjective and objective answers. Thank you so much and God bless us all!

  • I suppose this may be closed so I'll write a comment. 1-Can you explain to the director that you need to use the keyboard for composing, arranging, exploring musical ideas and getting inspired? 2-Also, I suggest you buy a melodica (don't tell your boss). 3-Is there some other instrument you're interested in playing in addition to keyboard? This might open up new facets of your creativity, and give you an outlet for piano unavailability frustrations. 4-Look for a piano to play elsewhere (public school after 3 pm, local college, some other church, community center, nursing home, music store). – aparente001 Jan 31 at 2:57
  • 5-Consider joining a community concert band as percussionist and/or pianist. Bass drum, crash cymbal, chimes, celeste, for example, will be easy for you to get started with. 6-Consider using existing arrangements sometimes, to ease up the pressure on yourself to crank out the arrangements. // Question. Your church has an actual orchestra? – aparente001 Jan 31 at 3:01
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    I have a strong feeling that Interpersonal is a better place for this question: interpersonal.stackexchange.com So, you feel pressure, the joy and inspiration from creativity has gone, other people are telling you what you must do, how to do it, and that you can't have an instrument at home etc.? I'm sure everyone has had good intentions though. Based on your short text I'd recommend you to find a way to make at least some music that you enjoy without having to think about making other people happy. – piiperi Reinstate Monica Jan 31 at 6:49
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    Reading between the lines: wonder what the real reason was the MD stopped you playing. Has someone else taken your place, or do they sing acapella? Not playing is affecting you adversely, so I'd be inclined to speak with MD saying it's both or neither. Maybe he's trying to discourage you altogether, I don't know, but if so, you'll have the answer. All or nothing! – Tim Jan 31 at 11:38
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    "...I do not have a piano or keyboard at home anymore, since it was donated...." the wording of that comment is kind of unclear. Who donated? Donated to who? The crux of your problem is the piano is gone. If you owned it, why would you give it away? Of course that will present a serious problem for a pianist. – Michael Curtis Jan 31 at 18:44
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First, the most important thing to be a good arranger is to listen. Listen to orchestral arrangements of songs that you know. For example, you can check out this Christmas concert here. Listen particularly to the counterplay between the strings and the vocals. The choir is always singing basically whatever is in the hymnal while the orchestra gives extra support and leads the congregation into the next verse/chorus. Also in between whole notes the choir may be singing, the orchestra plays some sort of melodic line that helps the transition.

So what I would suggest in your situation to boost your creativity in arranging is to start with a basic form. You can have the choir sing whatever is in the hymnal and have the orchestra support the choir. Then you can start adding transitional phrases in the orchestra and maybe have an orchestral intro. Then you can start experimenting with other ideas such as a cappella, vocal interplay (bass/alto sing a couple of notes, then tenor/soprano echo that), have certain voices have solos, interesting reharmonizations, key changes, orchestral melody with the choir singing harmony, and much more. Really the only thing that can limit what you can do is not trying ideas out.

That is why I HIGHLY recommend you buy a piano. Whether it just be a keyboard or a grand piano. Buy a piano. This can help you figure out how you might voice phrases or orchestral parts.

Hope that helps

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