What to Play in the Background as the Keys Player

Worship keys players are often the ones asked to fill the space for any moment that might be thrown at them: transitions between songs, between elements of the service, during offering, announcements, prayer, communion, the list could goes on! Here is a simple guide on how you can be prepared to handle these moments from the keyboard. 

Tip 1 – Sounds 

Let’s start off with the basic ingredients – the keyboard sounds that you need to have for these sort of spontaneous moments, transitions, etc. 

This doesn’t have to be complicated, you want a great piano sound and a good pad sound. If you can search your hardware or software for a warm pad, you’ll be in a good place. Layered together, you want the piano to be out front, and your pad to sit underneath. That way when you hold out chords you will hear the initial attack of the piano, and then the pad will stay there, sustaining for as long as you need it to. With this simple combo, you can fill space and sit perfectly underneath someone who is speaking, praying, or wrapping up a message. 

Tip 2 – Playing Technique 

The sounds you use are important, but equally important is how you play those sounds.  

When underscoring, the most important thing is to emphasize shared notes when you change chords. You can do this by moving the bass notes in the left hand, but intentionally avoid doing too much in the right hand. 

This is a great way to establish yourself if you’re fading in at the end of a service and you don’t want to step on anybody’s toes. You can stay there and keep things simple, or start to slowly increase the intensity. Think about ways you can come along side and compliment what is being spoken on stage as you play. 

Tip 3 – How to Flow 

As the keys player, it’s important that you follow as they lead. That doesn’t mean that you’re trying to mimic their pacing or what they’re saying. Stay tuned in to the intensity and energy behind what they’re saying, what’s going on in the prayer, or what’s going on in your congregation. 

If that skill sounds a little bit intimidating, practice doing this sort of improvisational playing at home. You don’t have to come up with all of these ideas on the fly in real time.  

Take these concepts of sounds and simple chord voicing, and try it out in different keys. Then look at the setlist that you have coming up. Think about the moments that you might need to fill some space or where you might need to take the song somewhere different, or create space for a moment of prayer or ministry. This builds up muscle memory that frees up other parts of your mind to be listening to what’s happening.

Bonus Tip – What NOT to Do 

A common thing that keys players run into is when they know a song will be played after this time, they will hint too heavily at the song. Try to avoid this.

For example, if the song has a keys riff – don’t play that keys riff during your underscoring time! 

Why? Because you might end up playing it for five or ten minutes and by the time you start the song everybody in the room will be tired of hearing it. But even more than just keys riffs, avoid playing the exact progressions from that next song if you can. If you’re playing outside of the progression it’s a good idea to stay in that key and give yourself alternate progressions that you can take to a different place. 

At Sunday Sounds our focus is to make it easier for you to succeed in the worship keys position at your church. Check out the Sunday Sounds YouTube channel for more tips and videos for worship keys players!

If you’re looking for the ultimate solution to a powerful, and affordable worship keys rig then check out the Sunday Keys App