The Church Musician Primer

An online keyboard skills class for church pianists and organists

Music school is great, but if you want to be a church musician in the 21st century, there are lots of things you're left to figure out on your own.

Some skills simply aren't taught in most schools or private studios. This includes:

  • playing and singing or playing and conducting at the same time
  • accompanying and supporting choral and congregational singing
  • harmonizing melodies (with and without chord symbols)
  • finding cadence points and vamping in the moment
  • creating modulations and transposing at sight
  • improvising transitions and creating musical underscores
  • playing 5-finger patterns in all 24 keys (12 major, 12 minor)

And the list goes on. Where do you start? How do you learn and develop these skills?

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Welcome to the Church Musician Primer, an online keyboard skills courses for church pianists and organists.

Whether you lead a small congregation in one service on Sunday mornings or play for three services a week, including a contemporary service with a praise band...

This course will help you develop valuable sight-reading, score-reading, and harmonizing skills; play and accompany hymns, anthems, and contemporary songs creatively and confidently; and give you the tools and resources you need to lead and support choral and congregational singing in a variety of worship settings.
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You'll Learn How to:

  • develop skills in sight-reading and score-reading;
  • develop critical listening skills by evaluating music aurally and working
    without notation
  • foster basic accompanying skills by learning to simplify and knowing what
    to leave out;
  • build coordination: play/sing, play/conduct, play standing up, play/direct
    with breath cues;
  • harmonize simple melodies (with and without chord symbols); and
  • develop creativity through composition and improvisation activities.

What's Inside:

The video lessons and course materials are divided up into four modules, released over four weeks. The first module will be available immediately.

P.S. Want to take the fast track? Email me for instant access to the full course.

What other church musicians are saying:

"This course contains many helpful hints and tips for keyboardists of any experience level, and is presented in a way that is simple and easy to understand."

Our Course Curriculum:

Module 1: Accompanying

Brush up on some choral accompanying basics like playing warm-ups, reading open score, and providing support for singing/knowing when to drop out. Then, learn about the ins and outs of accompanying in worship - from learning how to cadence to playing for communion to playing "traveling music."

Module 2: Creative Musicianship

In Module 2, you'll learn about creative hymn-playing and creativity in worship, including introductions, learning how and when to breathe (for cues), providing support for congregational singing, and creating your own harmonizations, modulations, and transitions.

Module 3: Contemporary Music Skills

In this module, you'll learn how to play contemporary music and accompany in contemporary worship. Topics include playing chords, how to read lead sheets and chord charts, how to harmonize a melody, creating flow, playing with a band, underscoring prayers and readings, and how to introduce contemporary music/teach a new song to your congregation.

Module 4: Planning & Preparing

This final module is devoted to planning and preparing for worship: choosing service music (prelude/postlude, offertory, responses, etc.), choral music (anthem, introit, responses, etc.), and transition music; preparing for rehearsals, practicing, and a few practical things like what to include in the bulletin.

What other church musicians are saying:

"I love having the modules divided into subtopics for easy review, and all the extra resources and links Ashley provides."
"This course is an excellent way to hone and
develop your skills
as a pastoral musician."

Course Schedule

Module 1 - available immediately
Module 2 - available 7 days in
Module 3
- available 14 days in
Module 4 - available 21 days in

P.S. Want to take the fast track? Email me for instant access to the full course.
Enroll Now

Hi, I'm Ashley Danyew

Church musician and music educator based in Rochester, NY. My mission is to help church musicians and teachers like you lead, teach, and inspire others creatively and confidently.

I have a Ph.D. in Music Education and over 15 years of church music experience, including accompanying services on the piano and organ, starting and directing children's, adult, and handbell adult choirs, planning worship, and overseeing a music program.

I created this course to help you develop the key skills you need to play and lead with creativity and confidence. Excited to meet you inside the course!

What's included?

Video Icon 27 videos File Icon 4 files Text Icon 9 text files
Welcome Message
Welcome + Introduction
3 mins
20.5 MB
Module 1
Welcome to Module 1
2 mins
1.1 Introduction
2 mins
1.2 Part 1 - Choral Accompanying
10 mins
1.3 Developing Awareness
3 mins
1.4 Part 2 - Accompanying in Worship
8 mins
1.5 Playing Traveling Music
3 mins
1.6 Keyboard Skills Project 1
2 mins
Bonus Challenge
Module 2
Welcome to Module 2
2 mins
2.1 Introduction
2 mins
2.2 Part 1 - Creative Hymn-Playing
9 mins
2.3 Using Interludes and Harmonizations
8 mins
2.4 Part 2 - Creativity in Worship
9 mins
2.5 Keyboard Skills Project 2
2 mins
Module 3
Welcome to Module 3
2 mins
3.1 Introduction
2 mins
3.2 Part 1 - Contemporary Music
7 mins
3.3 Reading Chord Symbols, Lead Sheets, and Chord Charts
8 mins
3.4 Part 2 - Contemporary Worship
9 mins
3.5 Teaching a New Song or Hymn
4 mins
3.6 Keyboard Skills Project 3
2 mins
Bonus Challenge
Module 4
Welcome to Module 4
2 mins
4.1 Introduction
3 mins
4.2 Part 1 - Planning Music
10 mins
4.3 Part 2 - Preparing for Worship
8 mins
4.4 My Favorite Resources
4 mins
4.5 Keyboard Skills Project 4
3 mins
Church Music Database (Excel)
499 KB
Church Music Database (Numbers)
195 KB
Bonus Resources
How to Practice Efficiently in 30 Minutes or Less [Podcast]
Score-Study Tips for Church Musicians
How to Create Your Own Doxology Transitions
Creative and Practical Hymn Harmonization Resources
How to Harmonize and Re-Harmonize a Hymn or Song for Worship [Workbook]
2.19 MB
13 Piano Duet Books for Worship
A Quick Tip for Transposing at Sight

Ready to get started?

I’d love to see you inside the course and help you develop the skills you need to play creatively on a weekly basis (and feel confident doing it!).
Enroll Now

What other church musicians have wondered:

Where is this course taught?

This course is taught exclusively online. Immediately after purchasing, you'll receive an email with details on how to login to a members-only website where you can access the course. Access the content 24/7, wherever you go, from any device. All course content and materials will be delivered in digital format: video lessons, PDF downloads, and web links. Nothing physical will be shipped to you.

What level is this course?

This course is geared toward those with some playing and/or accompanying experience and basic knowledge of music theory. I consider this a college-level course, building on the playing, reading, and musicianship skills you developed in private lessons and/or through experience in the field and theoretical knowledge gained from high school-level music theory courses.

How much time does it take to complete?

You can complete the course in as little as four weeks (one module per week). Each module includes roughly 30 minutes of video and a corresponding keyboard skills project for you to practice on your own. I recommend setting aside about an hour per day for practicing. 

That being said, the course is completely self-paced, so start whenever you're ready, set a schedule that works for you, and learn at your own pace.

What if it doesn't work for me?

That’s what the refund policy is for. 🙂

If you decide the course isn’t for you, please email me within 5 days of purchase for a 75% refund. After this point, all course enrollment fees are non-refundable.

What if I have other questions?

Please feel free to reach out to me directly at I'd be happy to answer your questions!