Gospel Music Lesson of the Week – Creating Contempory Chords

This week’s gospel music lesson is about playing within diminished patterns.  Taking major chords and creating a real contemporary, full sound.

I’ll demonstrate it for you and then break down exactly what I do so you can put this lesson to work right away.

Please let me know what you think by sharing your question or comment below.

If you really like it please share it via your twitter or facebook page.

Thanks for reading.  And caring to improve as a gospel musician.

For more, this lesson is on Gospel Music Chords.


Gospel Music Lesson of Week – Contemporary Chord Progression in the Key of Eb


This weeks gospel music lesson is on a contemporary chord progression in the key of Eb that can be used for background talking music or simply music to add to the chords and progressions that you already know. Enjoy the lesson and please share with a friend!

For more, this Gospel Music Lesson is about incorporating jazz licks.

Gospel Music Lesson of The Week – Incorporating Jazz Licks

This week’s gospel music lesson is a spin off of the last blog post.  It’s about how to incorporate jazz licks into gospel music. Hope you enjoy it and can apply it to your music right away!

The Evolution of Gospel Music

Gospel music in my opinion is the greatest music in the world because of the message behind the music.  I do believe many times that people consider gospel music to be gospel music because of how it sounds. I am of the opinion that gospel music can have a vast range of possibilities in terms of the sound, chords, progressions, rhythm, and etc. The world around us is constantly changing and so is the music that we play.

For example, what one considers to be gospel music now does not sound like what people expected gospel music to sound like 100 years ago.

 CLICK HERE to hear what at one time was considered modern music.  “Wade In The Water”

I believe that there are so many relevant styles and approaches to music that can be applied to gospel music.  I was a jazz major in college and I learned about so many different jazz artists that helped to shape the genre of music in which they were classified. One common denominator among musicians that made a huge impact in music was the fact that those musicians were always looking for something fresh and new.  These people caused the music to evolve and change.  Many times people didn’t like change and rejected the new styles and sounds that these musicians were introducing. Below is the same song “Wade In The Water” with a more modern arrangement.

Music is constantly changing and evolving.

I am an advocate for studying various styles of music and incorporating different sounds and approaches to gospel music. I would like to reiterate that I believe what makes gospel music gospel music is the message of the music, not necessarily the chords or the beat of the song.

As time continues to go by the chords and beats that we use will evolve as musicians explore various ways of playing and arranging music to the message of the gospel that we love.

I would encourage you to think outside of the box and explore various styles of music for the sake of educating yourself about how the music works and what makes it sound the way that it does. I am a big jazz fan and I would like to share with you some of the people that I have studied over the years that I believe has helped to shape my playing and my personal approach to gospel music.

In no particular order:

Bill Evans  – Piano  (Chord Voicings, Chord Progressions)

Oscar Peterson -Piano  (Improvisation)

Phenias Newborn Jr. – Piano  (Improvisation)

James Williams – Piano   (Chord Voicings)

Art Tatum – Piano  (Stride Rag Time Piano)

Mycoy Tyner – Piano  (4th Chords, Playing Outside of Keys)

Herbie Hancock – Piano  (Dissonant and Abstract Chord Voicings)

Charlie Parker – Saxophone  (Improvisation)

Cannonball Adderley – Saxophone  (Improvisation, Articulation, and Tone)

Stretch yourself and reinvent yourself musically. There is so much to learn, so why not get started today! I would encourage you to check out some of my favorites on Youtube.

I would love to continue this discussion further. Make a comment or ask a questions.


Gospel Music Lesson of the Week – Expanding Dominant Chords

This weeks gospel music lesson was a real pleasure to put together.  It is how to take a dominant chord and explore different sounds and possibilities with the chord.  Enjoy and pass along to a musician friend.  Also make sure to check out the HMPI Store for additional resources and to get yourself ready to perform for mom on Mother’s Day.

Gospel Music Lesson of the Week – The Common Top Tone

The Common Top Tone is an interesting concept that I think you will enjoy.  It’s about how to take one common note and play several chords with that one common tone.  Enjoy and please post your comment or question below.

Gospel Music Lesson of The Week


This lesson is on how to play simple chords that are suitable for high praise moments. I did this lesson with the beginner to intermediate player in mind. This progression is very simple but the beauty of it is that you can easily play this in any key when ever you need or want to.


Gospel Piano and Organ Chord Voicings


One thing that I love to hear when listening to an organist or pianist is when the musician really knows how to voice their chords.

A chord voicing is referring to how you arrange the notes within a particular chord. For example I can play a C major chord several different ways.

right hand    CEG

left hand        C


right hand    E C

left hand     C  G


right hand    GCG

left hand      CGE

There are so many different ways you can voice a particular chord.  Here are a few tips to follow when you are trying to figure out how to voice a particular chord.


  • Know or identify what specific notes make up a particular chord

For example a C major chord is comprised of 3 notes which are C, E and G

Now I know that C, E, and G are the notes that I have to work with. Now I will try to arrange these 3 notes to get the best possible sound.

I can use a particular note of the chord only once in my chord voicing.  I can also use a particular note of the chord more than once in my chord voicing. Let your ear be the judge of what is the best chord voicing


  • Look for the sweet spot

Take the notes that make up a particular chord and try to arrange them so that they sound just right.

You don’t want your notes to be too low (played to far to the left) which will make your chords sound muddy or cloudy. You also don’t want to play the chord too high (played too far to the right) which will make the chord sound thin.

You want to find what I call the sweet spot, which is the ideal place on the keyboard for the chord that you are playing. Sometimes a combination of high and low works well. Sometimes a very close voicing works well. (Where the notes a very close to each other)

Sometimes an open voicing works well. (Where the notes have larger spaces in between them)

Experimentation is the key!!! You will be surprised at the great things you can find from just experimenting with different chord arrangements.

  • Use Voice Leading

One thing that makes your chords sound good is good voice leading. Voice leading is how smooth the particular notes within a chord move to the notes in the very next chord.

You don’t want to jump around a lot when playing your chords.  Many times the notes within a particular chord don’t have to move more than a half step, whole step, or a third. This gives you a flowing and connected sound when you play your chord progressions. This sounds pleasing to the ear.  When you move from one chord to the next some of the notes may stay the same. Some may go up and some may go down. This is voice leading. The notes of your chords are the voices and you want them to move smoothly to the next notes of the chords.

I also like to think that the notes in my chord are like individual people singing in a choir. When someone is singing in the choir, the notes that the person sings does not have huge jumps and spaces in them. (Jumping from a really high note to a really low note)

That would sound unnatural and would be difficult to sing. Think of your fingers like little singers and you want each finger to move easily and smoothly from one note to the next note within a chord progression.

These are just 3 tips to think about when voicing your chords. I would love to hear your comments. Please let me know if you have any questions or want me to go into greater detail in any of the above mentioned tips.


Gospel Music Lesson of the Week – Pedal Points

This week’s is on Pedal Points and how to play a series of chords with only one bass note.  Enjoy and please pass along to a friend.

“The Little Things That Are Not So Little”

I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work with and play with all kinds of musicians and musical artists. I have been blessed to play with some of the best musicians anywhere. After awhile you start to see commonalities among musicians that are very successful. Also people consistently call upon these kind of musicians because they enjoy working with them.

These are things that I have noticed about very successful musicians.


1) They arrive early for engagements and performances

2) They come prepared knowing the music and ready to play

3) They have positive attitudes with those whom they are working with

4) They don’t allow their egos to get the best of them (They can easily follow directions)

5) They leave their personal feelings out of the music and they don’t allow their feelings to affect the way that they play.

Everyone wants to be successful in what they do and musicians practice for years to develop their skills to get to a certain point in their playing.

Always keep in mind that only 50% of your success is how well you can play. The other 50% consists of much of what I mentioned above. The LITTLE THINGS – That really are not so little.

By all means PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Practice is necessary to succeed. It is no getting around it. You have to practice. Developing yourself musically is essential for success but don’t neglect the LITTLE THINGS.

It is quite possible that your talent can open doors for you that your character can’t keep you in.

Be the total package and succeed as the kind of musician that you have always wanted to be and that people love to work with.


Leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue

Lesson of The Week – Overcoming Key Changes

I would encourage you to take this key changing technique and try to apply it to all 12 keys. It is good to think about the number and type of chord that you are playing in songs. The 2 most important things you must be able to do in order to effectively use this technique is to know all 12 major scales and know your basic chords. These are very fundamental skills that will in the end make a huge difference in your playing. It really does take the frustration and anxiety out of playing in every key evenly.

Key Change Exercise Song

Click Below To Hear The Song

If you like this lesson then don’t be shy. Help us spread the free lessons. Share with a friend.



Music Lesson Of The Week – Minor 3rd Modulations

This week’s music lesson is about being creative with keys and modulating songs.  This is the kind of thing that makes being a musician fun.  Please post a comment below with your questions and comments.

Please share on Twitter and help HMPI serve more musicians.


Also check out this great video tutorial and midi of the song “I Believe God” by Kurt Carr that uses the minor 3rd modulations. This is a great song to learn.


Lesson of the Week – Organ Chord Inversions

Welcome to HMPI’s Music Lesson of the Week.  There have been several requests for an organ lesson so I put together a great lesson for players of all skill levels around Organ Chord Inversions.  I hope you enjoy.  Please comment below with any questions and/or requests for future lessons.  We’ve also just launched a digital download section in our store that has more complete organ lessons.

And don’t be shy, share with a friend via email, facebook, or twitter.

Playing Chords With Flavor

We all love to hear rich and full sounding chords when people play. It seems like some guys know just what to play, and how to play to really play with a lot of flavor.

Here are a few tips that I use to add more flavor to my chords. 

  • Find The Sweet Spot

I look for the place on the piano or organ that is the optimum place for  a particular chord. Doing something as simple as moving a chord up or down an octave can dramatically enhance the sound of a chord that you are playing.  I look for the place or area on the keyboard where the chord is not too high, or too low but rather just right.  If you play your chords too far to the left your chords can start to sound muddy and if you play your chords too far to the right they can start to sound thin. I love for chords to sound rich, full, clear,

  • Try Different Chord Inversions

Experimenting with chord inversions is another way to really enhance the sound of your chords. An inversion of a chord is to change the position of the notes of the chords while still playing the same note names.


The notes are the same but you change the arrangement or position of those particular notes.

A good rule of thumb is that how ever many different notes you have in a particular chord, then that is at least how many different positions that you can play that particular chord.

  • Adding Notes To Chord

Another effective thing to do in order to really add more flavor to your chords are to add additional notes to your chords.

For example: If I am playing a C major chord which are the notes C -E -G.

I love to add the second scale degree of the chord to add a bit of flavor to the chord.



C  is the root or 1st scale degree

E is the 3rd scale degree

G is the 5th scale degree

The second scale degree for the C major chord is the note D.

So I would play:


Adding the 2nd scale degree is an easy way to add flavor to most chords (not every chord)

The 6th scale degree is another note that works well in adding notes to chords (not every chord)

Experimentation is really the best way to discover what works and what does not.

  • Study Other Musicians

I have learned so many wonderful and flavorful chords from other musicians. I am a big advocate for studying great musicians. Learn what they do and how they do it.

This is not to try to copy the person but rather learn how they think about playing. You can learn the concepts that they are using and can apply those concepts and come up with your own unique approach to it yourself.  Or if you really love how they play then copy them. It will be okay. lol But in the process look for your own style and voice when you play.

If you like this post please share it with a friend.



HMPI Lesson of the Week – Reharmonization and Counter Melodies

For this week’s lesson I decided to do a brief demonstration of a song reharmonization and adding counter melodies to a song. This is something I love to do and you certainly grab people’s attention when you reharmonize familiar songs and melodies.  As with anything this has to be done with discretion and tastefully.  However, it’s great to keep things fresh musically and to keep raising the bar for creativity.

Reharmonization for me is centered around the melody. In a nutshell you keep the melody notes prominent and at the top of the chords. This helps people to hear where you are in the song. It goes with out saying that in order to do this that one should already be able to play quite a few chords in several different keys.

Now lets take chords that we already know and maybe discover some new ones along the way and weave together a creative chord progression that allows the melody notes to be the top notes of the chords. It can be challenging to reharmonize certain songs but it is a  fun challenge.

  • Look for progressions that sound natural

I really love to hear musicians that can play in a very creative way but it still sounds musical. Sometimes musicians can get so caught up into doing something innovative and new that it is easy for the music to become non musical or doesn’t really make sense to the listener. Always keep your listeners in mind. Will your listeners be able to follow your reharmonization or will they still be able to  make out what the song is. These are things to consider when coming up with your own  reharmonization.

  • Go back to home base from time to time

It is important when you are playing a familiar melody or song to go back to the standard progressions within the song sometimes. In a sense it helps the listener reset their ears to the song you are playing. You don’t won’t to stay out in left field the whole time, come back to the regular way of playing at the right times and go then go back to something new and different. It is all about being tasteful. It is possible to have too much of a good thing.

  • Use Modulations to get out and back in

Sometimes you may find yourself stuck and can’t figure out how to reharmonize a certain part of the song. In that instance, allow the melody note to stay the same but play chords that are in a different key. This will really make people listen. You have to be careful how you do this but it is a great technique  to use.

My last tip is learn more songs. The more songs you learn the more chord progressions you will learn and you will be better equipped to come up with your own unique chord progressions.

Have fun and be creative. There are no rules. Discover something great!


If you like this lesson please comment and share it with a musician friend.

Pick a Key!

There were several people that responded to a previous post that I posted a while back. The subject of the post was Music is Mathematical. I decided to expound on the subject a little more. If you have any of my training videos you know that I advocate learning all 12 of your major scales fluently. The reason I advocate them so strongly is because knowing the scales can really open up some great possibilities for you.

I will give you an example of one way of many that it can help you. Recently, I was asked to play for a funeral of a young man that passed away. I agreed to play for it but there was no rehearsal for the musical selections in the funeral.  Unfortunately, we had to wing it. I was told what songs were going to be sung but I didn’t know how the singers wanted to do the songs nor did I know what key they wanted to sing the songs in.

This is the problem. I could have easily learned to play the songs in the original keys but what if the original keys were either to high or low for the singers. Musicians have to be flexible. If the song has notes in it that are too high for the singer to hit then you might have to lower the key of the song to something that is more comfortable. If you play for a church or ministries you may have to do things like that and if you don’t you still should know how to.

I knew that we would not  have a rehearsal so I decided to chart the songs using the number system. The way that I do it is, I write down what number or scale degree the particular chord falls on and then I write beside it what type of chord it is (major, minor, suspended, etc.)

Please excuse my chicken scratch but it works for me. lol

Approaching it like this will make the key of the song not even matter. However, you must know all 12 major scales with the  corresponding scale degree or number that goes to each note of the scale.  For example the F major scale is F -G-A-Bb-C-D-E

  • F is the first note of the scale so F is number 1.
  • D is the sixth note of the scale so D is number 6
  • G is the second note of the scale so G is number 2

When you know all 12 major scales and what number goes to each note in each scale then you can easily do this.

If you are playing a particular song in the key of F and the chord progression in the song is Fmaj –   Dmin7 –  G7  – Csus7

You can now plug in the numbers for each chord. It would be this.

(1)maj – (6)min7-(2)7- (5)sus7

Now you can take the numbered chords and apply that to ANY key that you want, IF you know all of your major scales and know your basic chords. Check of this video of an easy way to play your basic chords in every key. This video comes from the Learn To Play In All 12 Keys DVD Course.

Like I mentioned earlier I played for a funeral of a young man that passed away. There where hundreds and hundreds of people there. I didn’t want the musical selections to be a flop so I did what I needed to do to adjust to the singers and not the singers having to adjust to me.

Everything went over very well but I attribute it to knowing my scales and chords and having the knowledge of applying the number system to my playing.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this or hear any questions that you might have. Also, if you have found this post to be helpful then share it with a friend via facbook, twitter or email. Thanks



Lesson of the Week – Playing Outside of the Key

I’m happy to announce that HMPI will be issuing a lesson of the week from here on out.  I hope that you find value and come back to the blog each week to check out the lesson.  The first lesson is called “Playing Outside the Key.”

I’d love to hear your comments and or questions.  Please post below.  Also, if you like what you see and hear and feel moved, please share with your friends via facebook, twitter and email icons below.  Have a blessed week!

Tips From a Grammy Nominee

This weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and work with Grammy Nominated John Stoddart. John is an awesome pianist and vocalist along with being a great guy.

He travels extensively with Kirk Whalum as the main keyboardist in his band. He has also been nominated for a Grammy award for his own solo recording projects.

John gave a few tips on piano playing. In particular he talked about how to develop solid playing technique. He talked about using gravity to assist your fingers in producing a good piano tone. He demonstrated that when you walk, the weight of your body is shifted from one leg to the other. He explained, the hands and fingers work similar to that when playing the piano.  He said that you produce certain kinds of sounds on the piano with the power from your back.

Finally, he suggested to practice technical passages slowly and concentrate on the tone you are producing with each individual note.  Once you are producing a great tone with each note of the passage gradually increase the speed.

John is another example of a musician that has studied various styles of music and his style has been influenced by his diverse training and study.  I talked about the importance of studying the type of music that you want to sound like in your playing in my “What Flavor Do You Like” post.

John very impressively played a classical piece of music by Chopin entitled “Revolutionary”. This is a recording of Chopin’s Revolutionary.

I believe it is so important to consistently study your craft and  practice. Your best musicians will be individuals that seriously study what they do and practice on applying those principles. The key to becoming a better musician is studying and practicing your music.

Piano and Organ Tips – Real Success Insights

Have you ever sat down at your piano or organ to practice and didn’t know what to really work on?  Have you ever felt like you were not accomplishing much in your practice time?

We both have probably felt like this at some point in time.

Let me share some things with you that has helped me over the years.  I know you have been playing awhile but hopefully this will help.

If you are anything like me, you are probably really busy and don’t have as much time as you would like to practice so you have to make your practice time count.

I have found that it helps to make out a practice schedule:

1.  Specify how much time you can allot to practicing a particular day.

2.  Determine what you want and NEED to practice on.

3.  Divide the time up that you have so you can practice on everything. You have to stop working on a particular thing when the time is up or it will throw off your  schedule.

4.  Keep a log or diary of what you practiced on so you can track your progress.

A practice schedule for me may look something like this:

 Practice Schedule

Time: 1 Hour

Finger Exercises/Scales: 15 min

Sight Reading: 15 min

New Song to Learn: 20min

Improv/Soloing: 10 min

I”ll send you a free video lesson next time. People seem to really like the video lessons. I have a process where you can download lessons to your computer.  I think you’ll like it.

Gotta go now.  I’ll talk to you soon.


What’s Your Role?


As a musician, it is very important to understand what your particular role is in a band. Your role can change depending on the song, the situation, or even just what is preferred by who you are playing for.  There are times to be very intense in your playing and there are other times to play very basic. You have to know the difference between the two. That means it is quite possible to have more skills musically speaking than is necessary for a particular song. Your best players will be individuals that know what is appropriate to play, and are disciplined in their playing. They will not over play or even under play. As you mature as a musician you learn to be a team player. I love to think of a band as one big unit. In a band situation what you do affects everybody else.  Where there is unity there is strength. Everyone has a role and a important function to play within a band unit.

You must be sensitive to what is going on around you and how what you are doing is affecting everyone else in the band. When I play with other musicians I try to be sensitive to the moment. I ask myself, “will this chord, lick, movement, etc. add to the song and band as a whole or take something away.

It is very important to be conscious of:

  • Your Volume
  • Gelling With The Other Band Members
  • Playing too much or too little
  • Playing with the appropriate sound and style

The other night, I played for a concert at a local venue in my city. The situation was me on keyboard, bass guitar, lead guitar, drums, background vocals, and lead vocal. Here is just a little of footage of us just having a little fun before the concert during the sound check just to check the volume levels. We were just having fun with this. It was really interesting playing and holding a camera at the same time. LOL. However, when the concert started we had to put on our professional hats.


Throughout the entire concert I had to change my sounds to fit the songs that we where playing. Sometimes I used a basic acoustic piano sound, other times a fender rhodes piano sound, other times piano and strings etc. I also had to monitor my volume to make sure that I was not to loud or soft. Also, I was playing with a lead guitarist and had to make sure the we were playing the same chords. Some songs I took the lead and dominant role musically and other songs I played very basic and subdued all the while still supporting the lead vocalist and not overshadowing him.

Really good musicians are sensitive to all of these things. Many times you have to really think about these things a lot in the beginning but after awhile of developing good musicianship habits they seem to become second nature. When you get to that point then you will be the type of musician that other musicians love to play with and singers love playing for them.

Your playing chops and skills are very important but it is not just your skills that will cause you to be really successful as a musician. It is also knowing what your role is as a musician and how to appropriately use the skills that you have.

I would love to hear about your experiences and thoughts concerning this.