Take a look at the list of most performed songs on the CCLI website today and you’ll see “What A Beautiful Name”, written by Ben Fielding and Brooke Ligertwood, is high on the list. Hillsong Worship recently released an EP containing 6 unique arrangements of the song, and they illustrate an important reality: the essence of a song is its melody and lyric. The harmonies supporting this melody and lyric can change, and so can the rhythms and instrumentation used.

That said, a keyboard player on a modern worship team will do well to be able not only to reproduce the piano parts and pad parts presented on specific recordings of a song, but also to create unique parts as well. Let’s explore some of possibilities. For my examples here I’ll preserve the original chords but suggest new rhythms and voicings, and I’ll use D major, the original key.

First, using a repeating note on the top of a piano voicing and a stream of steady 8th notes can be very effective. With the chorus in mind, put the 5th finger of your right hand on the D above middle C, and play a D5 voicing. Then play the following voicings:

Example 1

This option featuring that static D on top of the right hand could morph slightly to create any number of options for playing the chorus. Keep your left hand

the same, leave out the first 8th in each measure, and play beats 3 and 4 differently, like this:

Example 2

Here’s a slight variation of this figure, featuring a short long, short long short rhythm:

Example 3

You could adapt the voicings slightly to include some accented beats within the measures, like this:

Example 4

You could let your left hand play the rhythms accented above while your right hand plays the short/long activity shown earlier:

Example 5

What I hope you’re noticing throughout these examples is that there are a lot of ways to play these chords. A slight change in one or both of your hands can bring new momentum to the progression. Note the difference in the right hand below:

Example 6

Ask a vocalist from your worship team to spend some time with you singing the melody of the chorus as you play these various piano parts. And spend some time developing more variations on your own. The options are literally infinite.

There are two important takeaways for you here. First, as long as you preserve the melody and lyric of the song, your accompaniment can be whatever you choose. Second, spend time discovering for yourself what rhythmic and harmonic options you find effective for any part of a song. I’m confident that you’ll discover some very satisfying possibilities, and you may well find that this song or any other song you’re playing is made fresh again for you, your worship team and your congregation.

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Director of Worship Studies at King’s University/Gateway Church in Dallas, TX. Masters in Piano performance, songwriter, clinician with Yamaha and Paul Baloche.

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