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.

Lesson of The Week -Praise Chords in F

Thanks for viewing this weeks lesson Praise Chords in F.  Enjoy and please pass along to a musician friend.  Stay tuned for more lessons and instruction.

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.


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.



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



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.


Minor Scales – Free Lesson

Thank you for subscribing to free lessons from HMPI. Enjoy your first video and stay tuned for me. If you like what you see please share with your friends on facebook and twitter.

Music Is Mathematical

One thing that is helpful when playing a song is to get into the habit of thinking about what scale degree (number) each chord falls on in relation to the key of the song.

If you continue to think this way you will be paving the way for you to comfortably be able to play the songs that you know in any key you want.

For example if a song is in the key of Ab and the chord progression is Abmaj – Cmin7 -Fmin7.

The Ab major scale is Ab-Bb-C-Db-Eb-F-G

  • Ab is the 1st scale degree
  • C is the 3rd scale degree
  • F is the sixth scale degree

If you think of 1maj -3min7-6min7 the key will not matter to you if I know all of your major scales and the corresponding scale numbers to each note of the scale.

You now can apply this information to any key you want. It makes playing in every key much easier if you think of the music like this.

More to come on this subject. Stay Tuned. Also the Learn To Play In All 12 keys DVD goes into great detail about this subject.



Welcome to the HMPI Blog!

Hey, Kenneth Hollins here.  I’m excited to begin a dialogue with you and look forward to this new platform. After playing for 30 years, and teaching for 15, I’ve learned some important lessons along the way.  God has given me the gift of music and I want to share what I’ve been given.  The purpose of this blog is to serve as a resource to you as you develop as a gospel musician. I will provide an inside peek at what I do on a day to day basis and share what I feel are key lessons.

My plan is to bring to you guest interviews with top musicians and artists in the industry. I will be sharing key attitudes and philosophies that are important to have. From time to time, I will be sharing with you some free lessons and other resources for you to utilize.

HMPI has come a long way over the years and I’m excited to see the continued development. The new website is an important step in allowing us to realize our vision of being the largest, most respected, and widely recognized gospel music instruction resource in the world.  Thank you for choosing to be on this journey with us.

My subscription based blog MyKeyBoardConnection is also available and is meant to offer specific training, videos, and lessons. You can join me, along with your peers, in this special member’s only website.

Please make a comment introducing yourself and come back often to receive updates. I’d like to hear from you about new products that you would like us to develop in the coming months.  Please share your questions and ideas about what you’d like me to cover in the blog too!

Thanks again and together we can take gospel music to new heights!