3 Tips for Leading Worship from Keys

We usually think of the person leading worship as a guitar player. However, many churches have a keys player or piano player lead worship. David Pfaltzgraff from Sunday Sounds sat down with Matt McCoy to talk about his top three tips for leading worship from keys.

1. Practice Transition Moments

When you are transitioning between songs, you can be pulled in multiple directions. You need to focus on helping your band move to the next song, lead your congregation and often times there is a key or tempo change. Practicing these moments before the service can go a long way.

David: “If you’ve got a key change you need to nail, do everything you can to memorize those moments so you don’t need to look down at a chord chart or your hands. If it’s a transition from an uptempo to a slow song, make sure that you’re comfortable with that so that you don’t start too quickly. Practice the musical transition so that you can focus on the ministry transition or opportunity that might be present. I’ve found that if I don’t over practice, those moments can be very distracting or tense. When you’re leading, it can be better to do more preparation than normal.”

2. Keep It Simple

You may feel that you need to play the complicated or elaborate keys part that exists in a song. But if you’re also leading the worship, it may be better to strip it down.

David: “Keep things simple whenever possible, even if it means making some concessions musically. Maybe you don’t nail the cool lead part because you want to focus on the impact of the lyrics and the room. Maybe just play a piano or just a pad. If you’re leading from guitar you probably aren’t using as many pedals and playing as many licks. So in the same way when leading from keys keep it simple.”

With the advancement of music software, patches and keyboards it can be easy to want to use it all.

David: “It’s tempting to think that because we have hardware and software that can do complicated keys parts, we need to bring that to maximize our impact. But I think there is a real strength to leaning towards the pastoral component of the worship over the musical component.”

3. Focus on the Congregation First

No matter what instrument you’re playing, it can be challenging to only focus on what you’re doing. But it’s important to connect with your congregation.

David: “I have definitely gone through entire sets where I was very happy with how the band sounded, but if I was honest it didn’t feel as impactful or as much of an open space for the congregation as it could have been. The first two tips will help you lead less on just leading the band, and instead focus on the entire room to help your church come together and reach a really meaningful expression of worship together.”

Hopefully the next time you lead worship from keys, these three tips will help you prepare. If you’ve never led from keys before, maybe talk to your team about doing it in a few weeks to give it a shot. Watch the full interview with David below!


If you’re looking for great keys templates and song specific patches, check out Sunday Sounds!