You Can Make Any Song Sound Gospel

Erskine Hawkins  /  Musical Genres / Oct 14

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Did you know you can make “Sweet Child O’ Mine” sound gospel?

Erskine Hawkins can. Our gospel piano coach shows us how you can take everyday pop songs, alter the chords a little, and then come up with something new and delightfully gospel.

Check out these examples.

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“Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey

In “Don’t Stop Believin’,” Erskine sneaks in a ii7-V7-i before the vi. What does this mean?

We’re in E Major, which means the C#m chord here is the vi chord of E Major. We’ll treat the C#m chord as a root to resolve towards. So when Erskine plays D#m7 and G#7(b9) towards C#m, it creates a little ii7-V7-i progression. Later, Erskine does another one of these down to E.

“Hey Jude” by The Beatles

“Hey Jude” isn’t too hard to gospel-ify because it sounds a little gospel-y already!

The first thing Erskine does is do a little ii-I walk-down. Walk-ups and walk-downs are common in gospel piano.

He also does some dominant walk-ups. Here, Erskine walks up chromatically to the dominant chord, C7.

“Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses

“Sweet Child O’ Mine” is also another song with some built-in gospel charm. It’s also super fun to sing. We had a lot of fun with this one…

Erskine threw in some substitutions. Such as subbing in an E-Flat bass here:

Original B chord:

B chord with E♭ substituted into bass.

Walk-downs make another appearance. This time, Erskine is walking down chromatically by sixths. Sixths and thirds will always harmonize, so they sound very nice.

Excited by this video? Think it’s a little too fast to follow? Then join us in the Pianote Members Area for Erskine Hawkins’ full step-by-step course on how to play gospel piano. It’ll break down this video’s concepts in detail so you can apply them yourself!

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