Introduction to worship keyboard – part 3 – Understanding how to form and use melodic fills

After forming chords and using rhythm well the next step is to add colour using melodic fills. As the title suggest these fill in where there is a gap rather than going on all the time. Look for opportunities in songs where there is no singing or when there are sustained notes to play a fill. There are three main ways of finding good notes to play for fills. The first is to use chord notes. Whenever you play any of the notes of the chord written in the music they will fit. You can play chord notes going up (ascending) or going down (descending). They don’t even have to be the next note in the arpeggio—you could miss one out. Here are some chord notes you could use over a C major chord:

Using chord notes is good but it will always sound a little clichéd on its own because you don’t introduce any tension of clashing notes into the music. The next step on from chord notes is to use the notes of the scale in between them. These are added in between notes are called passing notes. Again they can be ascending or descending. The passing notes in the example below are larger than the chord notes. Again these would fit with a C major chord:

The last melodic feature you can use for fills is the auxiliary note. An auxiliary note is a note above or below a chord note. This is similar to a passing note but instead of going up (or down) to the next chord note you return to the one you’ve just played. The examples below would fit with a C major chord again:

The best way of using these techniques is to combine them. Chord notes with a leap followed by passing notes or auxiliary notes are very effective. Too many passing notes just becomes like scale practice so try combining leaps to chord notes and a few auxiliary notes.

Once you are familiar with all of these devices you can try two things to push your playing further:

  • Combine these devices with the use of a different rhythm
  • Try playing in 3rds and 6ths (that is playing a note either 3 or 6 notes below the one you’re starting on)

Both of these will add colour and variety to your playing. Have a go and good luck!

More practical help for keyboard players

We’ve written plenty of articles and other content about playing keyboards in worship. To help you on your way, checkout the initial  lessons from the start of ourIntermediate Worship Keyboards DVDs available for download which explain the concept of chords-based playing and then go onto demonstrate it using the song How Great is Our God. The first 2 parts of this series will provide an introduction to playing using chords and teach you the techniques in playing the song How Great is Our God.

Once you have been through these three lessons more proficient players can progress to the rest of the Intermediate course. If you are less experienced and would like to consolidate your new learning with relatively simple songs go to the Beginners course(volumes 3 and 4 would be ideal) or our online video Keyboard Song Learner lessons. The first part of our new newsletter series will look at which chords can be expected to show up in a given key (this information will be useful for guitarists as well), how to construct those chords and how to play them in different positions (known as voicings or inversions).

Our most recent keyboard resource is the Worship Keyboard Collection. A great set of lessons for existing players who want to develop their skills.

Other articles you may find helpful:

Chords and their voicings (Introduction to worship keyboard part 1)

Understanding contemporary rhythms (Introduction to worship keyboard part 2)