Gospel Piano: Some Very Basics


in Learning Instruments, Methods

Gospel piano has such a rich flavor!  It exudes a spiritual emotion that, quite literally, stirs one’s soul with feelings of elation, spiritual conviction and praise. 

Learning how to play gospel piano requires an understanding of the unique elements that set gospel music apart from all other genres.    There are certain Gospel chord progressions that remain constant in terms of their being used the most often; and Gospel piano is easily identified by its chord progressions and variations.  In addition, there are very specific skills that must be learned in order to play gospel piano that would be consistent with gospel music’s style.  This will all come together as you continue to practice with patience and passion!

Understanding Gospel Piano Chords:

Obviously, there are groups of twelve keys that make up seven white keys and five black keys.  The white keys create the ‘C’ major scale made up the notes C, D, E, F, G, A and B.  Chords are usually three notes, though they can be more; and they are played simultaneously. 

To play gospel piano, it isn’t necessary to know every chord; but you’ll want to know the three most-commonly used chords in the key of ‘C’ major:  ‘C’ is made up of the notes C, E, and G.  The ‘F’ chord is created by  playing F, A and C while the ‘G’ is played with G, B and D.  If you attempt to play these chords, one after another, your fingers will quickly become accustomed to the positioning.  Soon, you’ll be able to find the chords without much thought, at all.

 Playing Gospel Chord Progression:

1— PICK the key you desire for your chosen song.  Different keys have different scales which determine the notes in the song’s melody.  These other notes serve as the foundation for all the chords that will be played in a given chord progression.

2— DECIDE on a chord progression.   An array of specific chord progressions is utilized by Gospel piano music which allows this particular genre to embrace its distinct and recognizable essence.  Common gospel progressions include the 7-3-6-2-5-1 progression, the 3-6-2-5-1 progression and the 6-2-5-1 progression. 

3— EXTEND your chords to give them increased fluidity and rhythmic feel.   An extended chord is simply an enhancement or embellishment of the classic chords with additional notes; and extended chords are frequently used with gospel piano.  When more than four notes are used in a chord, the chord is, most often, played with two hands and utilizes notes that are at least an octave above the root note. 

This only scratches the surface, but keep at it and in less time than you think, you’ll notice an impressive progression with your ability to play gospel piano!  Keep practicing and stay passionate!

Karen enjoys writing on the topic of online music lessons from her home in the midwest.


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David H. May 5, 2013 at 3:11 am

The C chord is made up of CEG not CDG.  CDG is a CSus2.  That is hardly a tonic chord.  The F chord is made up of the FAC notes, not FEC.  FEC would make a major 7th sound.  The only chord spelled correctly is the G chord: GBD.  I think this should be rectified to prevent beginners from making these mistakes.  You might also want to add the spellings for the chords mentioned in the progressions. A beginner has no idea how to make a 3, 6 or 7 (often a diminished chord) chord. 

Brad Chidester May 5, 2013 at 11:13 am

Thanks for picking up on Karen’s typo’s, (corrected now), unless of course she meant to modify the chord and forgot to explain. Yes, most beginners are going to have trouble with the chord spellings, which is why we have the chord workshop. Also note that the gospel scale is played over these chords especially the 7th chords to give that gospel sound. Take the C gospel as C D Eb E G A C see: gospel-scales for more info. You can play this scale with each of those chords to produce some great music. For the beginner this is a great place to experiment.

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