A church pianist typically has no more important job than that of accompanying congregational singing. While not glamorous, it is hard to overemphasize how much influence a pianist has over the overall mood/feel of the service. Here are some thoughts to help those of you that do this.
First of all, remember that congregational singing is corporate worship. By this, I mean it is a group of people joining together to worship God. Church pianists should strive not to hinder corporate worship by drawing undue attention to themselves. When this happens, people are distracted from what should be their focus.
Obviously, pianists can draw attention and hinder corporate worship by playing poorly. Playing poorly is a huge distraction. But on the other hand, church pianists can turn corporate worship into a showy technical performance which is equally distracting.
There are certain things that I just don’t do when I play for congregational worship. I remember playing technical runs and such when I was younger, but I eventually realized that everyone watching me was not a goal. For the most part, I now play pretty simply.
I am not a music Nazi, and I don’t have all the answers. You can decide for yourself how technical you should be when you do congregational accompaniment. But you should at least be aware of the danger of being distracting by being too technical.
Really, good congregational accompaniment is just playing solidly with one special ingredient: confidence. Confidence is easily the most important attribute a church pianist needs. Confidence is contagious and it creates energy. Even more importantly, confidence is critical to rhythmic/tempo accuracy, which is the most important accuracy a church pianist needs.
I can promise you that I play numerous wrong notes every Sunday. But I strive to play them confidently. If you can do the same, you will find that you will be more effective in your church.
That is really it. A simple but solid style that is played confidently with the right rhythm and tempo will do wonders for your corporate worship.