Master Class with Greg Howlett and Heather Sorenson

Another Upcoming Master Class with Greg Howlett!

Saturday, March 18, from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (12:00 – 2:00 Pacific Standard Time), Composer, arranger, producer, and pianist, Greg Howlett is hosting another online class, this time with highly-experienced arranger and teacher Heather Sorenson.  (Learn more about Heather here.)

The first hour will feature tips and answering questions, and for the second hour, the two musicians will evaluate 3 original arrangements sent in by students.  The cost for observers is a mere $9.99! If you think this is a lot, or aren’t sure you will get your money’s worth out of this, I can assure you that it is totally worth it! You won’t be disappointed with the wealth of information these two experts bring to the table.

Greg is very generous to do host these master classes, however, due to technical constraints, class size is limited this time, so don’t wait!

Master Class – Greg Howlett and Heather Sorenson

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Book Update March 2017

For those of you waiting on Hymnprovisation: The Art of Effective Improvisational Accompaniment-a Handbook for the church accompanist, which was supposed to be ready by March 1, I have good and bad news:

First, the bad: It isn’t done being proofed yet. We will then ahve to make the necessary changes/edits, and then send it to the printer.

The good news, is that we are really close! In the meantime, we are still working on cover art, finding the right printer, and obtaining the necessary copyright permission and a preorder page which should be up shortly.

To learn more about this book, you can visit this page.

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Damien Sneed-“Taking a Hymn To Church” Gospel Style

If you have ever wanted to apply a Gospel Style to your hymn playing, this is for you!

How to take a hymn and “Gospelize” it. Damien takes the well-known hymn, Precious Lord, Take My Hand and applies gospel styles to it. In this video, Damien shows how you can use something other than the basic I, IV, and V, or basic down beat/after beats in the left hand, for hymn playing, this video will expand your horizons a bit!

Learn gospel music techniques at the piano with accomplished pianist Damien Sneed.

Mr Sneed has an impressive biography that includes everything from Classical, to gospel, to jazz, to CCM. You can read more about him here.

This video is posted for the purpose of furthering your musical education and imagination. We believe there is valuable content in this video clip, however, not everything in every video we post is wholly endorsed by hymnprovisation.com. If you do not like it, you are free to turn it off.

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Complete Website Makeover

 

 

Dear Fellow Musicians and Worship leaders,

 

It’s a new year, and we are finally getting around a complete makeover of the Hymnprovisation.com website and branding to make it more readable, useful and practical for you.

We are in the process of a complete makeover of Hymnprovisation.com which will include a new header, logo, and new design to serve you better. In addition, we plan on adding new content, sheet music for sale, and pre-sales of the book,

Hymnprovisation- The art of improvising and effective accompaniment. 

Our goal is to serve fellow musicians by collecting and offering useful information, advice, input and training, for church musicians, worship leaders and hobby musicians. We hope to do this through the means of this website that is both easy to navigate and also meets the needs of our readers in a clean and professional manner.

We need your input!

In order to do this well, we are going to need your help!

We’ve created a short survey that we think will help us narrow down the needs of our readers to better serve them. Would you take a moment to fill this out?  We will be carefully and prayerfully considering your responses and Lord willing, we will be able to serve you better this year.

We are grateful to those of you who already have taken a few short minutes to do this!

What we hope to accomplish in 2017:

Please bear with us as we test out and try to implement some new things including,

  • Creating a professional looking website with better content, tailored to your needs in an easy to read and navigate format that doesn’t turn readers off.

 

  • Distilling and Communicating our mission and purpose better.

 

  • Collaborating with other musicians and professionals in the fields which you are interested in.

 

  • And adding additional content including:
    • Writing and posting to the blog at least twice a month.
    • More links to other helpful websites
    • More videos.
    • A new page with sales of vintage, POP and newer sheet music.
    • Pre-sales of the book as mentioned above.
    • Adding specific content related to your responses to our survey as to how we can assist you better. (Please take a moment to tell us how we can help you this year.)

Music Conferences

Many of you have asked about whether we are going to do another music conference this year. The answer is, I would like to, but simply cannot afford it at the moment. Even though we had a generous sponsor, 46 paying attendees and several very kind individuals who volunteered much of their time and resources, it just didn’t come close to covering the cost of putting it together. I was a bit concerned that the cost of attending wouldn’t be affordable to those who wanted to come, and yet, for the quality of instruction, it turned out to be a very fair deal. We are still praying about this, but unless the LORD directs otherwise, we will plan to do one again in 2018. There is still a small possibility of organizing one this Fall, but I will need volunteers in order to make this happen. (I just can’t afford to take 6 months off of my regular job this year to plan, organize and execute it myself.)

Funding for this ministry

This website is a ministry. Not a 501.C.3 tax exempt charity, but a ministry nonetheless. It is not a money-making proposition but something I do because I love quality sacred worship music, and because I like to help other people be able to make quality music. Pretty much every aspect of it cost money. Sending emails to you, taking the time away from paying work to write, improve this website and blog, select content, etc,-all of it has costs and there may well come a time when I am unable to continue this because other needs are more pressing. Until then, I have been blessed to be able to do this and hope to continue. If the LORD puts it on your heart to donate to this ministry, that would be appreciated, but I am not requiring or even asking. You can contact me privately if necessary.

 

I’m sure we are missing something, and since our goal is to serve YOU, won’t you let us know what would be helpful to you? Please take a few moments to take the survey or leave a comment below and let us know!

Once again, don’t forget to take the survey here!

 

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Should You Train To Failure?

Our Practice

I just heard a strength and fitness trainer advocating “training to failure,” and I thought that was an odd thing to say. I had to hear more.

First though, you need to understand something. It should be obvious by now that I am a big fan of improvising in music, and in fact, that’s what this website is about, in part. But not just improvising out of rebellion to the composer, but in order that the music set aside for worship can be the best possible music out there. There are times when improvising isn’t the best thing to do, but in general life throws curve balls, so I think we should look at improvisation as practice for real life situations.

With that understanding as our foundation on this topic, I’d like to explore both what the Fitness Trainer said, but in terms of our musicianship, and also another saying no doubt you have heard which goes like this:

“Practice Makes Perfect!”

Hmm…But does it really?

Like so many sayings we have come to believe because we have heard them so often, which may or may not have an element of truth, this one too, could be true or false.

Let me explain:

It doesn’t take long to think up a situation where it would not be true. If you are incorrectly practicing a piece of written music, or failing to execute a technique correctly, than you won’t get it perfect (even if everything else is right except one little thing). In this all-to-common scenario, instead, practice makes pathetic, because the incorrect rote practice now becomes a habit that is very hard to break.

However, it would be true if you practiced it perfectly through and through, each time, which is what we strive for.

Let’s face it though, how many of us actually really do this? Of course we are human and will make a mistake, but many of us are also lazy, especially when it comes to worship music? I’m not sure why, but in 22+ years of playing in churches, I have witnessed the general unspoken consensus among the musicians, that, It isn’t going to be as good as the symphony, so it doesn’t REALLY matter.

That is a sad indictment, and I hope it isn’t true of you. I’m sorry to say it has been true of me at times.

I’m not sure if it is a lax attitude among laymen because we aren’t paid, so why bother, or maybe you are paid, but you feel it is not enough to practice like a pro. Or maybe it is because we feel like the people who are listening don’t care, which is a mistake in itself because our music shouldn’t be for them, it should be for our LORD.

And He deserves only the absolute very best.

But is that even possible to deliver?

That is really the crux of the matter and a question that only you can answer:

Do YOU give YOUR very best?

Do you do as good as you would if you were first chair Violinist, or a musician invited to play with the New York Philharmonic in Carnegie Hall?

And that brings me to the other thing I want to explore:

Our Training

Some of us practice daily, while others are lay musicians who practice when they can. God has called each of us to different walks of life, and I get that. However, if He has called you to make music for Him, you should have some sort of a plan in place to ensure that you are giving your very best.

So how should we train?

Each of us will be inclined to one method or another, and some ways may work better for others. That’s understandable. What I want to do is encourage you, whichever course you take, is to train to failure. Not for failure, but to failure.

In other words, train until you can’t anymore. Until your muscles give out from exhaustion, Your brain can’t take it anymore, and there is nothing left to learn.

I don’t typically listen to celebrity trainers but as I said earlier, I happened across a short clip of celebrity trainer, Jeff Cavaliere, advocating “Training to Failure.” Since that seemed contrary to my thought process, I thought I would see what he had to say, and I heard this:

“Train until you reach failure in your technique, where your 
technique is good, but you go as hard as you can and if you 
have to change your tempo, that’s okay, as long as your form 
is still good. 
What you don’t want to do is change your… form in order to 
keep going, that would not be training to failure.”

Does that make any sense? He’s advocating training with the right technique and not letting up until you can’t go any further.

He’s not saying train so you WILL fail, but UNTIL you fail. Only then should we take a break.

This isn’t just true of athletes. I know musicians who would practice something until they got it right, and then, at that point, they would play it 100 times in a row nonstop. If they got it wrong, they would start over. And that wasn’t even for the LORD!

If we are going to bring the LORD our very best, than this kind of hardcore training is necessary to condition ourselves into the proper technique, the right notes, the perfect tempo, the exquisite dynamics, the perfect phrasing, etc.

I know that some of you won’t even know what songs you may be called on to play next. I played for many years at a church where they called out the hymns from the congregation, so I never knew what I was going to have to play. But still, I had to be ready. And you can be too. You can practice through your whole hymnbook if you are a church pianist, until you know all the hymns by heart. Words too.

I must admit here that I never learned every one of them (partly because I was lazy, and partly because we didn’t sing certain ones) but I know most of them to this day, by heart.

We can be ready for whatever we are called to at a moment’s notice, by taking the time and energy to train like an athlete. In a very real sense, this is a sacrifice of praise.

If a concert pianist would train like an athlete in preparation for a concert, why shouldn’t you or I train like an athlete in preparation for Sunday morning worship of the God of all the Universe, who gave His most prized possession to purchase us?

I’d like to know if you agree or disagree, or if you have another opinion. Please leave a comment below, and if you found this useful, share it with a friend.

 

 

 

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Free Master Class This Saturday with Faye Lopez and Greg Howlett

Free Master Class This Saturday, February 4th from 1-3pm Eastern Standard Time (10am-12pm Pacific Standard Time).

Faye Lopez will be joining Greg Howlett for an online group Master Class. The class is free to observers, and participants are $25. I would highly recommend this class! I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to take some classes from Faye, and learned a bunch! Plus, she’s the nicest teacher ever! She won’t let you get away with poor quality music, but she will guide you in the sweetest way so you can make it better.

This class includes the added benefit of having pianist, teacher, arranger and producer, Greg Howlett, as well! He is excellent at teaching, and super nice! Greg brings a wealth of experience to the table you will be blessed by!

This is a great opportunity I don’t intend to miss, and you won’t want to either!

To learn more, go here and grab a spot before it fills up: Greghowlett.com/MasterClass

Even if you are not an advanced player you will still learn a ton from these two and the participants, and how can you beat the price? I’ve already signed up…what are YOU waiting for?

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How Can We Help You This Year?

As we are beginning a new year, would kindly take a moment to give us some feedback as to how we can help you become a better musician in 2017?

At Hymnprovisation.com, we strive to bring you valuable resources and education and techniques that you will find useful. We attempt to distill all the many video clips, writings, websites, blogs, deals and sales that you might find useful as a church pianist/organist, worship leader, or simply as someone wishing to expand their skill set and knowledge of effective accompaniment.

So now that you know why we need to hear directly from you, just exactly what you feel is lacking, and how we can best serve your needs. Please take a moment to answer each of the 16 questions as best as possible, and then let us know at the end if we forgot anything.

Thanks!

P.S. There are no wrong answers. Every answer will help us to serve you better!

Please click here to fill out the survey

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Book Update January 2017

I don’t know about you, but I had set my sights pretty high last year. I’ve been trying to finish a book on accompaniment techniques which I had started several years ago, and instead, ended up:

  • Building this website
  • Playing piano and sometimes organ for my church
  • Organizing, Producing and making Powerful Praise Music Conference happen
  • Going to Pine Lake Music’s Composer’s Symposium put on by Joe Martin,
  • Playing piano at several weddings and a memorial service
  • Working in Los Angeles for two months
  • Playing piano for a recording
  • Accompanying and singing with Men of Grace at the N.W. Gideon’s Int. Conference
  • Working in my regular day job
  • Singing in a Choir
  • Playing Piano for a Christian Camp which I play at every year
  • Taking an online Composing and Arranging class
  • Writing out my first piano arrangement
  • Assisting with our Church Choir and Christmas Cantata
  • Writing out my first arrangement for Children’s Choir
  • Shoveling Snow in the Beautiful Northwest!

And you know, in spite of all that, I still was able to make great strides toward finishing the book! I have almost all the musical examples in and checked, and am in process of some final additional details, building the index and appendixes. Then it will need to be proofed, formatted and printed. I think you will be almost as excited as I am when it comes out (HOPEFULLY ) By March 1st!

All in all, I think it was a pretty profitable year, not monetarily, I can assure you, but in knowledge and understanding, and that ought to be worth something! So for those of you who have been patiently waiting…and waiting…and waiting… would you mind praying that I would have wisdom and understanding as I wrap up the final details?

Thank you for your continued patience with me!

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“Essentials for the Worship Team Pianist” Webinar

88 Creative Keys is putting on the Essentials For The Worship Team Pianist Webinar on Monday, January 16th from 11am-1pm Eastern Standard Time.

The cost is $49 for this two-part, three hour online class taught by Leila Viss, Drew Collins and Bradley Sowash.

I have not taken their classes, but heard of this through James Koerts. 88 Creative Keys offer several webinars throughout the year on all sort of musical subjects such as chords, rhythm, teaching, improvising, etc.

  • In the first portion of the webinar, Drew and Leila will discuss:
    Leila Viss

    Leila Viss

    • The three roles of a worship team pianist.
    • The latest tech tools used by most worship teams.
    • Tips on how to build required skills.
    • What worship leaders expect of a pianist.
    • Common mistakes pianists make when playing with a band.
    • Five characteristics of a strong worship team pianist.
    • Some tricks of the trade.

    In the next portion, Bradley will cover:

    Bradley Sowash

    Bradley Sowash

    • What to play when unrehearsed background music is needed.
    • Heighten your awareness of thinking and playing in musical layers.
    • More tips for pianists on feeling a groove.
    • Improvising and/or arranging a traditional hymn for contemporary worship.

     

    For more details, and to sign up for this class go here.

Will I see you there?

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Skill vs. Anointing: The Heart of the Matter

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You’ve probably heard someone say, “God doesn’t care what it sounds like, as long as their heart is in the right place.”

But is this true?

I’ve been thinking about Skill vs. Anointing (or learning a skill, vs. being gifted with a talent) and I’ve come to some personal conclusions on this matter which are pretty evident to anyone who is familiar with this website and it’s purpose.

What do YOU think though, does God really care if you sound good or not?

After all, isn’t it the heart that matters?

If it is the heart that matters, why should we strive for excellence in worship through music?

Here is great article from TheMusicMinistryCoach.com which explores some of these thoughts. I found it interesting, helpful and thought-provoking, and I think you will too.

I’d love for you to leave a comment and let me know what you think about this!

 

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