Piano or keyboard

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Lead solo piano (without lead singers)

If you’re the only instrument in the band, your role is to provide accompaniment to keep people in time, but also importantly to lead the congregation into the verses/chorus, so planning what to play for your intro and between sections is key - these are the times when the congregation will be looking for a clear indication that they are supposed to start singing.

Your intro may need to include some of the melody to ensure people are reminded of the song they’re singing. If it’s not a well known song then using the first line or two or the verse can be a useful reminder!

In this situation, playing the tune on the piano would be appropriate. Giving a good strong lead with particular emphasis on your right hand is critical for the congregation to be able to hear the tune and sing it.

Alongside the tune, play something simple and rhythmic with conviction. The key is for the congregation to be able to sing the tune - the rest of what you play should complement the melody without clashing in rhythm or harmony.

Lead solo piano (with lead singer)

If you have a singer, the vocalist has the responsibility to lead in the vocal in at the right time and sing the tune - make sure they know this is their job! In this case your intro does not necessarily need to be as obvious as when there is no lead singer. You should still be clear, but the congregation will take their cue primarily from the vocal timing and pitch.

In this case, it is better not to play the tune if your singer is confident and their voice carries. Doubling up the melody is not necessary and the opportunity to provide an interesting harmony from the piano is calling!

Your accompaniment should be simple and chord based, keeping time and pitch without distracting from the melody.

Lead piano with band

In this case you are part of a band but you are in charge. People will be looking to you to provide a lead that the other instruments can follow.

Your responsibility is similar to that of a solo piano, but it is important to make sure what you are playing complements the other instruments in the band, for instance if you have a bass guitar you will need to avoid play too many bass notes.

A good start for this is to use a piano sound and play chords rhythmically and fairly strongly. For quieter sections, if the guitar and drums are holding the rhythm, you might be able to switch to a pad or string sound, but be careful not to leave the band rudderless!

Be aware of any orchestral instruments or lead guitar parts and ease off the higher end of the keyboard if need be.

Support Piano/Keyboard

In this case you are part of a band and somebody else (probably rhythm guitar) is taking the leading role. You have more freedom to play different parts, and not play all the time. Other instruments are leading the congregation, so your role is to add to the music without distracting from the melody being sung.

The range of notes a piano will cover are similar to the electric guitar, so whatever you play needs to complement the electric guitar part. For example, if the guitar is playing a high part, avoid playing a high part on the piano at the same time, they are likely to clash.

At times the piano may still want to play chords to help drive the song, at others the piano may want to add a high harmony, and at others there is an opportunity to use different sounds. These could be strings/pad/hammond organ. When using other sounds, it is still important that these do not clash with other instruments - an electric piano may sound similar to an electric guitar, or a pad/organ sound will cover the same sounds an organ will add.