Gospel Music Instruction for All Skill Levels

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Gospel music is a widely popular genre that is enjoyed by people of all ages. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned pro, our blog offers gospel music instruction for all skill levels.


Learning to play gospel music on an instrument can be a very rewarding experience. Not only will you be able to join in with other musicians at church, but you’ll also be able to share your talents with the world.

No matter what your skill level is, there are plenty of resources available to help you learn. Whether you want to learn how to play chords on the piano or read sheet music, there are lessons out there that can teach you what you need to know.

There are also a number of different genre of gospel music, so if you’re looking for something specific, like blues or jazz, there are lessons available for that as well. No matter what your interests are, there is a style of gospel music that will suit you.

Basic Gospel Music Theory

Gospel music is a unique and powerful genre that has its own set of rules and traditions. If you’re new to gospel music, or just want to brush up on your gospel music theory, this article is for you. We’ll cover the basics of gospel music theory, from chords and progressions to singing and arranging.

Notes and Rests

In music, a note is a symbol that represents a musical sound. Notes can be written on a staff, which is a set of five lines and four spaces that notes are written on. Notes are named using the first seven letters of the alphabet: A, B, C, D, E, F, G. After G, the cycle repeats (A, B, C).

Notes can be either long or short. A long note is called a whole note and looks like an open circle. A whole note is held for four counts. A short note is called a quarter note and looks like a solid circle with a stem coming out of the top. Quarter notes are held for one count each.

There are also eighth notes (solid circle with stem and flag), sixteenth notes (solid circle with stem and two flags), and so on, but we will just focus on whole and quarter notes for now.

Rests are intervals of silence in music. Just as there are different types of notes, there are different types of rests: whole rests (look like open rectangles), half rests (look like diagonal lines), quarter rests (look like open diamonds), eighth rests (look like diagonal lines with stems), sixteenth rests (look like open diamonds with stems), and so on.

Whole and half rests are used in 4/4 time signatures, while quarter and eighth rests are used in 3/4 time signatures. Sixteenth rests are not used very often outside of compound meter time signatures such as 6/8 or 12/8.


In music, an interval is the distance between two pitches. Intervals are named according to their relationship to the major scale. For example, the first and second note of a major scale are a whole step apart, as are the third and fourth, the fourth and fifth, and so on. But the interval between the first and third notes (or the second and fourth) is only a half step.

Here are some other examples of intervals:
-A “unison” is two pitches that are exactly the same.
-A “minor second” is a half step.
-A “major second” is a whole step.
-A “minor third” is a half step plus a whole step (or two half steps).
-A “major third” is a whole step plus a whole step (or two half steps plus a whole step).
-And so on…

The names of intervals always tell you two things: how many steps away the two pitches are, and whether the interval is above or below the starting pitch. So if an interval is called “major third” it means that it contains three whole steps (a major third), and it goes up from the starting note (it’s an upward interval). If it were called a “minor third” it would mean that it contains only two half steps (a minor third), but it still goes up from the starting note.


Chords are an important part of gospel music. They are created when two or more notes are played together. Chords can be played on any instrument, but they are most commonly played on piano or guitar.

There are four main types of chords: Major, minor, augmented, and diminished. Major chords are the most common type of chord and they have a happy sound. Minor chords have a sad sound. Augmented chords have a strange sound. Diminished chords have a scary sound.

You can create different sounds by playing different combinations of chords. For example, you can play a C major chord and an F major chord together to create a “C major 7” chord. This chord has a very different sound than a C major chord or an F major chord by itself.

There are endless possibilities for creating different sounds with chords. It is up to the musician to experiment and find the combination of chords that sounds best for the song they are trying to create.

Gospel Music Styles

There are many different types of gospel music. The three main types of gospel music are traditional gospel, contemporary gospel, and urban contemporary gospel. There is also a sub-genre called quartet gospel which is a more traditional style of gospel music.


Traditional gospel music is a form of Christian music that originated in the late 19th century with the Negro spirituals. These songs were generally Spirituals that were created by African Americans in the Deep South of the United States. They were originally sung by groups of laborers while they worked on plantations.

The best-known song from this genre is “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, which was written by Wallace Willis, a Choctaw Freedman from Mississippi. This song has been adapted and covered by many artists over the years, including Mahalia Jackson, Paul Robeson, and Willie Nelson.

Other popular traditional gospel songs include “Lord, Remember Me”, “I’m So Glad Trouble Don’t Last Always”, and “Amazing Grace”. Many of these songs have been adapted for use in churches and choirs all over the world.


Contemporary Gospel music is a genre of music with a Christian message. The Contemporary Gospel genre is similar to Contemporary Christian music, but the lyrics are usually more directly related to the Christian gospel message. The genre includes subgenres such as Urban Contemporary Gospel, Latin Gospel, and British Gospel.

Gospel Music Instruments

When it comes to playing gospel music, one of the most important things you need is a good instrument. There are a lot of different gospel music instruments out there, and each one has its own unique sound. In this section, we’ll go over some of the most popular gospel music instruments, and we’ll also give you a brief overview of each one.


The piano is a popular instrument in gospel music, and it can be used to play both solo and accompaniment parts. As with any instrument, there are certain techniques that are specific to playing gospel music on the piano.

If you’re new to the instrument, or if you’re not familiar with gospel music, it can be helpful to take some lessons from a teacher or watch some instructional videos. Once you have a basic understanding of how to play the piano, you can start practicing gospel songs.

Most gospel songs are sung in a major key, so it’s important to know how to play chords in a major key. The most common chords in gospel music are the I, IV, and V chords (which are also known as the tonic, subdominant, and dominant chords). These chords are played in different combinations to create different Sounds, but they all work together to create the characteristic sound of gospel music.

In addition to chords, many gospel songs also use arpeggios (broken chords) and scale passages. These can be played on the piano using either your right or left hand. Arpeggios are usually played with the right hand while Scale passages are usually played with the left hand.

There are many different styles of gospel music, so it’s important to listen to as much different music as you can before you start playing. This will help you get a feel for the style of music that you prefer and will also give you some ideas for your own playing.


The guitar is perhaps the most popular instrument in gospel music, and it can be played in a number of different styles. Lead guitarists usually play either single-note melodies or chords, depending on the style of the song. In some cases, they may also play a solo. Rhythm guitarists usually play chords, although they may occasionally play single-notes or strumming patterns.

Guitarists can use a variety of different techniques to embellish their playing, including bends, vibrato, slides, and hammer-ons/pull-offs. Good rhythmic feel and timing are also important for playing gospel guitar.


The bass is the foundation of the rhythm section in gospel music. It adds a “meaty” bottom end to the music and helps to hold down the groove. The bass player usually plays a 4-string electric bass, but it’s not unusual to see a 5- or 6-string being used. In some cases, an acoustic string bass (upright bass) may be used instead of an electric.

The most important thing for a gospel bass player to remember is that they are part of the rhythm section and not the soloist. It’s their job to lay down a solid foundation for the rest of the band to build on. This doesn’t mean that they can’t take a solo every once in awhile, but they should be aware that they are there to support the rest of the band and not steal the show.


The drums are an integral part of gospel music, providing the rhythmic foundation that allows the rest of the band and singers to do their thing. As such, it’s important to have a drummer who knows how to keep the groove going while also being able to add their own flavor to the mix.

There are a few different types of drums that are commonly used in gospel music, each with its own distinct sound. The most common type of drum is the kick drum, which provides a deep, booming sound that helps to drive the beat. Snare drums are also commonly used, providing a sharp crack that can be used for accents or to keep time. Hi-hats, cymbals, and other percussion instruments are also often used in gospel music to add texture and depth.

While some drummers prefer to stick with traditional acoustic drums, others may opt for electronic drums, which can give you a wider range of sounds to work with. Whichever type of drum you choose, make sure you take some time to learn how to play it properly so you can really make it swing.

Gospel Music Resources

Are you thinking about learning how to play gospel music? Whether you are a complete beginner, or you have been playing for years, there are resources available to help you improve your skills. In this article, we will discuss some of the best gospel music resources for all skill levels.


There are many great books available on gospel music, both for learning to play and for reference purposes. Here are just a few:

-The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times (hardcover) by Anthony Heilbut
-The Gospel Music Encyclopedia (paperback) by Craig Hansen
-Contemporary Gospel Music: An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music (hardcover) by Mark Allan Powell
-Gospel Music: A Global History (hardcover) by Mark A. Peters
-Gospel Songs: The Story Behind the Song, Vol. 1 (paperback) by Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation


Here are some great websites for learning about gospel music:

-The Gospel Music Association: This site is a great resource for learning about the history of gospel music, as well as current news and events in the industry.
-Gospel Music USA: This site offers a variety of resources for gospel musicians, including articles, instructional videos, and performance opportunities.
-The Gospel Music Workshop of America: This site provides information on the annual Gospel Music Workshop of America convention, which is a great event for networking and learning from some of the top musicians in the genre.

YouTube Channels

There are many great gospel music instructional channels on YouTube. We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorites below.

-Gospel Music Training: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpwa-5Uzlakx4mcq3q7ZzPg
-Gospel Music Workshops: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5gCXtbBpjhIYTJDWQau2yg
-Gospel Music Lessons: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcK-9cPAGYrFHMwbZ1OsIbg
-The Gospel Music Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQ5KK busesvTW1W6T8emA6wFg

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