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Tips for Solo Playing in a Small Church

Updated: Oct 22, 2022

November 22, 2021

violin-resting-on-piano-keys

My husband and I have a burden to serve in a smaller church where we can contribute and serve. We travel about 45 minutes up a beautiful mountain drive to a church nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains where God has opened many doors of ministry. Sure, our little church does not have all the amazing programs that large churches can offer, but we hope to instill in our children a desire to give and minister to others instead of just sitting on the receiving end of ministry.


One of the ministries that my husband and I participate in on a weekly basis is the music ministry. Almost anyone who can carry a tune in a bucket (or even not) is encouraged to sing in the choir at our church, and the three ladies (myself included) who have keyboard experience are given lots of opportunity to play. My husband plays his trombone during congregational singing, and I usually play the piano for congregational singing. Playing my violin is a real treat for me since piano is my main ministry at our church.


Participating in the music program of a smaller church can come with some interesting problems or hurdles to overcome, but with God’s help, anything is possible. Maybe you are in a situation where you are the only pianist but you also play a second instrument and are wondering how you can use your second instrument. Sometimes finding an available or capable piano accompanist can be a challenge, and I would like to share a few tips that have helped me over the years in a variety of situations.


1. If you have a capable accompanist in your church, be sure to give him or her the music well in advance. Giving the accompanist the music well ahead of time is a courtesy that will foster a good working relationship between soloist and accompanist. Many times I have been handed music last minute, and that creates a temptation for a bad attitude on my part. Giving the accompanist the music well in advance may increase the chance of a good performance even of a difficult piece. Some pianists need a lot of time to practice, and advance notice will truly help.


2. If your church has a keyboard with a recording feature (and you can play the piano!), record the accompaniment on the keyboard and play your solo instrument along. Maybe you are in a situation where there is no one else available to accompany you, and this may be a great option for you. Thanks to technology, there are feasible options besides canned (aka pre-recorded) music. Our church does not used canned music, but our pastor was happy to have me pre-record myself playing the piano on our church’s Korg piano. Usually a week or two prior to the performance, I record the accompaniment on the Korg piano. Then I use my phone to record the accompaniment from the piano so that I can go home and practice. At the time of performance, I simply press the play button on the Korg piano and play my violin along with the pre-recorded music. People at our church get a kick out of the fact that I "played both instruments at the same time."


3. Find music that can be played unaccompanied. Perhaps you are in the most basic of settings instrumentally and do not even have a piano let alone someone who can play the piano. In these situations, I would recommend finding music that sounds beautiful all by itself, completely unaccompanied. For this exact type of setting, I have written several violin arrangements that work perfectly unaccompanied. An optional piano accompaniment is included with I Sing the Mighty Power of God .





I hope this simple post was a blessing to you and gave you a few ideas of how to contribute in settings that may not be ideal! Over the years, I've been challenged to think outside the box, and God has stretched me musically and personally.


-Ashley


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