Gospel Music for Keyboard

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Authored by Mark Copeland, Dennis Montgomery


Course Code: OPIAN-410

Next semester
starts April 1

Level 4

Level 4

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


The goal of Gospel Music for Keyboard is to prepare you to be able to function as a gospel keyboardist in any and all settings where gospel keyboard styles are required. Exploring the history, style, and techniques of gospel keyboard, you will learn by playing hymns of both the past and present.

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By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Function as a musician in any church setting
  • Decide what is musically appropriate within any church setting
  • Mentally and spiritually prepare yourself as a musician in a service or church setting
  • Build your repertoire of hymns and gospel songs
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: The History and Spirituality of Gospel Music

  • Negro Spirituals
  • Blues and Its Influence in Gospel Music
  • The Origin of Gospel Music: Arizona Drains, Charles Tindley, and Thomas Dorsey
  • From Spirituality to Ministry
  • Assignment 1: Essay on Gospel, Performance of Spiritual, Blues, and Gospel

Lesson 2: Call and Response Testimony Service Music

  • What is Call and Response Music?
  • Call and Response in the African American Church Setting and Different Church Denominations
  • Dominant, Major, and Minor Call and Response Cadences
  • Service Performance and Call and Response
  • Assignment 2: Performance of Call and Response and Testimony Songs

Lesson 3: Hymns, Traditional Cadences, and Chants

  • The Use of Traditional Hymns in Church
  • Contemporary Hymns
  • Chord Progressions: Traditional Church Cadences and Chants
  • Different Types of Traditional Cadences Based on Denominations
  • Assignment 3: Performance of Traditional and Contemporary Hymn

Lesson 4: Traditional Gospel Music

  • What is Traditional Gospel and Why is it Called Traditional?
  • Traditional Gospel Artists and Songwriters: James Cleveland and Roberta Martin
  • Gospel Piano Players: Mildred Falls and James Cleveland
  • Gospel Organ Players: Billy Preston and Reverend Charles Nicks
  • Assignment 4: Performance of Traditional Gospel Song

Lesson 5: Gospel Music from the 1970s to the ’90s

  • The 1970s
  • The 1980s
  • The 1990s
  • Building Your Repertoire
  • Assignment 5: Performance of Gospel Song of Choice

Lesson 6: Gospel Music from the 2000s to the Present

  • The Early 2000s
  • 2010 to the Present
  • Looking Back at Our Roots
  • Building Your Repertoire
  • Assignment 6: Performance of 2000s-era Gospel Song

Lesson 7: Use of Technology in Gospel Music

  • A Basic Set Up
  • Playing with Tracks
  • Stacking Sounds
  • Monitors: Wedges, In-Ear Monitors, and Getting the Right Mix
  • Troubleshooting
  • Assignment 8: Putting Together a Rig Under a Budget

Lesson 8: Praise and Worship/Contemporary Christian Music

  • Praise and Worship Music
  • What is Contemporary Christian Music?
  • CCM In Other Contexts
  • Building Your CCM Repertoire
  • Assignment 8: Performance of Contemporary Christian Music

Lesson 9: Choir Gospel Music

  • What is Gospel Choir Music?
  • Traditional Choirs
  • Contemporary Choirs
  • Rehearsing with a Choir
  • Assignment 9: Performance of Traditional Choir and One Contemporary Choir Song

Lesson 10: Talk and Shout Music

  • Talk Music
  • Shout Music
  • Exploring Traditional and Contemporary Talk and Shout Music
  • Reharmonization Techniques
  • Assignment 10: Performance of Shout Music

Lesson 11: Backing up a Preacher and a Gospel Singer

  • Gospel Preaching
  • The Art of Listening and Using Your Ear
  • Connecting Spiritually with the Preacher
  • The Art of Backing up a Preacher (Call and Response)
  • Assignment 11: Performance of Backing up a Preacher

Lesson 12: Gospel Music And Secular Music

  • Secular Songs that have a Strong Gospel Influence
  • Secular Songs that have Influenced Gospel Music
  • Artist Spotlights
  • The Controversy of Mixing Gospel and Secular Music
  • Assignment 12: Performance Mixing Gospel and Secular Song


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Piano Scales 101, Piano Chords 101, Jazz Piano, and Blues and Rock Keyboard Techniques, or equivalent knowledge and experience is required.


  • Students are required to record video while playing along with a backing track for their assignments. Options for recording video include:
    • Smartphone
    • Digital camera
    • External webcam
  • Note: The camera view must be from above, recording the keys right side up. It is imperative that the videos show the student's fingerings. You may need certain accessories to accomplish this, such as a goose-neck camera holder, tripod, etc.


  • Piano or keyboard instrument with at least 61 keys and a sustain pedal (76 or 88 keys are recommended)
    • If using a MIDI keyboard controller, a high-quality piano software instrument is also required.
    • If using a digital piano or keyboard workstation without built in speakers, an audio interface or amplifier is also required.


  • Students are required to capture their instrumental performance, as well as monitor audio output. Options include:
    • Input (one required if not using MIDI and software instruments):
      • Keyboard connected directly to audio interface (recommended non-acoustic option; alternatively, the microphone options below can be used with amplified instruments)
      • XLR microphone and audio interface (recommended acoustic piano option)
      • USB microphone
      • Built-in computer/mobile device microphone
    • Output (one required):
      • Headphones (recommended option; required if multitracking and/or input monitoring a microphone)
      • Studio monitors and audio interface
      • Built-in or external computer speakers
  • Note: Depending on your setup, you may also need XLR/instrument cables and microphone stand(s).

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact support@online.berklee.edu with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Mark Copeland

Author & Instructor

Mark Copeland is a pianist, organist, keyboardist, music producer, composer, arranger, songwriter, and educator. Versatile in all forms of contemporary music, he is a graduate of the Baltimore School for the Arts and a graduate of Berklee College of Music, where he is currently a professor in the Ensemble department. Mark has played for and shared the stage with numerous artists, such as Yolanda Adams, Brian McKnight, Jeffrey Osborn, Kenny Lattimore, Michelle Brooks-Thompson, Walter Beasley, Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, and Elan Trotman, and more. Mark says his ultimate goal is to use his God-given gift of music to inspire and educate others to be the greatest musicians they can be. He resides in New England with his wife, Stephanie.

Dennis Montgomery

Author & Instructor

By the time Dennis Montgomery III was nine, he was playing B3 organ in Baptist churches in his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. He began his time at Berklee as a student in 1983, and is currently a full professor as well as the director of Berklee’s Reverence Gospel Choir, which has included students from Japan, Greece, Israel, Lebanon, Taiwan, Australia, Canada, and a number of European and Scandinavian nations among its members. Having worked with the choir for more than three decades, Montgomery has directed such students as Paula Cole, Lalah Hathaway, and Susan Tedeschi. 


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at advisors@online.berklee.edu.

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