If you want to learn gospel piano chords, transitions, and other ways to get that distinct gospel sound, this lesson is for you!
Gospel is a big genre and this is a big topic, so this lesson is just an overview of all the possibilities we have at our fingertips.
We’re lucky to have Brett Ziegler lead us through this gospel chords piano lesson. In this post, we’ll take a standard pop progression and add a number of transformations to make it sound more “gospel-y.” You’ll learn how to:
Gospel piano isn’t for the faint of heart! And you need some basic knowledge about chords. So, if this lesson feels confusing, check out these free lessons:
Also check out Chord Hacks, a free four-part bootcamp to master chording basics.
First things first: let’s take a look at the chord progression we’re working with. To keep things simple, we’ll be in the key of G Major (one sharp – F#) and in common time (4/4).
Here’s the basic progression. The dots indicate quarter note beats. Since we’re in common time, remember that there are four quarter notes per measure:
Practice the “base” progression a few times on its own to get a hang of it.
Once you’re ready, let’s add some fluff to make it more “gospel-y.”
The first thing we’ll add is a ii7-V7-I transition right before the C (IV) chord.
Think of this as “setting up” that C chord. To do this, we’ll modulate (change keys) into C Major temporarily.
In C Major, ii7 is Dm7 and V7 is G7. So instead of playing just D, we’ll substitute Dm7 and G7 into that measure. Like this:
The 2-5-1 progression is very common in gospel and jazz piano. You can learn more about it here.
What makes this transition sound interesting is because we move into a new key and, consequently, play an F-natural instead of an F-sharp in those Dm7 and G7 chords.
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Now let’s add another set-up chord, this time before the vi chord (Em) at the beginning of the progression.
Again, we’ll modulate briefly into the chord that’s being set up. Meaning, we’ll change keys into Em. The fancy word for this is secondary dominants.
The V7 chord of Em is B7. To make things sound even more gospel-y, Brett uses an augmented (V+7) chord. That means we’ll be playing Baug7.
Our progression now looks like this:
“Augmented” means we raise the fifth of the chord (F#) up another half-step. This is also known as double-sharping (or augmenting) that note.
Adding chromaticism can make a progression sound more gospel. We can do this with our progression by bridging the C chord to the D chord with a half-diminished chord called C#m7b5 (#IV
A half-diminished 7th chord consists of a minor third, a diminished fifth, and a minor seventh. Our chord can either be called “C#m7 half-diminished” or “C#m7 flat 5.” You can learn more about the different types of seventh chords here.
You can hear this as “walking up” chromatically from C to D.
We’ve walked up. Now it’s time to walk back down.
We can do this by playing the IV chord (our C chord) over the fifth note of the scale (D). This is essentially a slash chord.
Whoo…that’s a lot of transitions.
It’s time to see how everything sounds together! As a refresher, here’s our original progression:
And here’s our progression with the 2-5-1 progression, the augmented 7th, the half-diminished flat 5 bridge, and the 4-over-5 ending. We’ve highlighted the added parts in red:
We hope you enjoyed this introduction to gospel piano! To access the complete course with Brett, consider joining Pianote as a member. Happy practicing!
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