How to Help Classically Trained Pianists Play Modern Worship Style Keys

How to help your classically trained pianist to play a modern worship style

If you’re like most worship leaders, you’ve got a classically trained piano player on your team who is a LITTLE bit too busy for your taste. Yep, it happens.

Instead of cursing them under your breath (also happens), what if we figured out a way to communicate with our piano players, that transformed them into our “rock-star” worship keys player?

Sound impossible? It’s not. David Pfaltzgraff (from Sunday Sounds) was in the same boat not too long ago. In fact, helping his classical pianists embrace modern worship style is exactly what prompted him to create Sunday Keys.

This month I spoke with David about how we can turn our classical pianists into top-notch worship keys players.


David had some incredible advice, and he said it all starts with how we communicate to the pianists on our team. Here are some tips from the episode:

1) Acknowledge their abilities

Your classically trained pianists have invested YEARS into honing their craft. They may even be the most musically capable musician on your team. Playing classical music is not an easy feat! Acknowledge that fact and help them see that you truly respect their commitment and skill.

2) Channel their skill

Anything you throw at your pianists, they can likely play. Tell them those words specifically. And then tell them you want to channel their incredible piano skills towards certain musical objectives: “I want you to learn this keyboard riff perfectly, and nail it with percision in both touch, timing, and tempo.”

3) Speak their language

Your pianos probably speak orchestra…so learn to communicate that. “Don’t play all the parts. You’re one section in the orchestra, not the whole orchestra.” “Think of the pads like a string section.”

4) Give them great sounds

Spend some time finding great sounds on your keyboard and save them as easy-to-access presets. Ask your piano players to use those presets for most of the set. (Good modern worship keys sounds are: Piano with pad, piano with reverb, warm pad, bright pad, synth, etc).

5) Equip them with tutorials

If you want your pianists to play something specific for a particular worship song, make sure you give them tutorial videos. The more specific you can be in what you want, the better they can deliver it for you. Remember, classically trained pianists are studious! They will work hard to play what you want! By helping them, you help yourself.

6) Be kind, patient and pastoral

If you approach this correctly, your classical pianist can move from your biggest headache to your most valuable asset. Love them. Respect them. Build them. Befriend them. They will become your secret weapon.

If you struggle with a classically trained pianist on your worship team…loving them, encouraging them, believing in them, and befriending them will go a really long way.

Be sure to check out the podcast episode: LISTEN HERE or watch below.