2 Key Rules To Play By

This Makes So Much Sense

Playing in a band is so different than playing in your living room. Follow these rules to fit right in.

May keyboardists will pound away at their left hand, playing lots of chords, octaves, fifths, and tenths. Now these chords and techniques in and of themselves aren’t bad. But when you have a bass player in the mix, it can totally rain on their parade, and it can very quickly muddy things up. You have to remember that many instruments have a large frequency range to them. The piano has the largest. This means that you can play the same notes as a bass, acoustic guitar, and even a vocal. When two instruments are playing the same note, they are competing for whose note will be heard. So when you pound away at your left hand, you can easily drown out the bass player and make the mix very muddy. To keep from doing this, I recommend following these 2 simple rules.

Playing in a band is different than playing in your living room.  

The KISS Rule

Stop me if you've heard this one. KISS! This stands for “Keep It Simple Stupid”. You don't have to be running up and down the keys like Liberace. If fact, it's better that you don't. Playing less will help leave some space for others. How much space you ask? That's rule number two.

The 100% Rule

When you are playing by yourself, you have the freedom to play 100% of the rhythms, notes, melodies, and chords. When you add another instrument to the mix… cut it in half! If it’s you and one other instrument, you should play about 50%. Add another and it drops to about 33%. Another… 25%. And so on. Again this is just a rule of thumb. You can cheat it a little here and there, but the point is to simplify! 

Try It With These Easy Keyboard Songs


Tempo: Medium

Song Key: B

The Same Love

Artist: Paul Baloche

Would Paul Baloche steer you wrong? No. No he wouldn't.

Straight forward and simple. Get ready to sit down in that pocket.

Super straight forward and fun.

Nice, relaxed piano part.


Tempo: Up

Song Key: G

Made Alive

Artist: Citizens and Saints

Get hooked by the keyboard (which you'll learn on guitar) and stay for the solid lyrics. Great tune!

Killer grooves!! Ton of fun to play!

Amazing groove to learn.

Easy synth tune with a great keyboard hook!


Tempo: Medium

Song Key: C

Jesus Loves Me

Artist: Chris Tomlin

Only 5 chords on acoustic and a cool lead riff on that second verse.

Lots of big toms in this one.

Straight forward with some great passing tones towards the end

4 chords and capo... wait a second... this is a keyboard, not a guitar!


If you put these techniques into practice, your bass player will love you. Your sound engineer will love you. Heck, even your mom might love you a little more. So back it off. If you are having trouble recognizing the right percentages, try scaling back to just your right hand and then start adding one note at a time in the left. It might actually surprise you how little you need. I've suggest a few songs that are a great example of simple playing. 

Ryan is currently the Worship Director at The Church at Wills Creek in North Alabama. He has been the keyboardist for many Christian artists and has served with several churches including Christ Fellowship and Church of the Highlands. Ryan is the keyboard instructor for WorshipArtistry.com and also works as a producer, music educator, and studio musician. Ryan has two children, Josiah and Vivy, and they love spending time on their 100 acre farm.

2 Key Rules To Play By

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reproduction strategy

Great ideas. Assuming the band's goal is to reproduce or at least emulate the original recording, one strategy I have found helpful is to go to multi-tracks, look up the song, mute all parts but the keyboards, and listen to what the original artist is actually playing. As you say, it's often a lot less than we think.

Very Helpful

Hi My name is Syan and I'm only 17 but I play the piano and sing on my worship team. Honestly I've only been singing for a year and I've been on the piano for about 5-6 months, but this article here has been a lot of help opening my eyes on how equal instruments are. Also on how they work together to sound great and it really is different playing in a band then playing in a room. lol XD

Anyway many blessings to you all and I'll definitely keep up with this website, I'm even gonna tell the rest of our team of vocalist and instruments.