Improvisation For Church Organ

Improvisation for Church Organ
Improvisation For Organists

Improvisation on the church organ

It’s a funny thing that classically trained musicians are often very poor at improvisation.

They (we) can often play Mozart very well but I think that Mozart would be very amused by the seriousness with which his music is often understood these days.

The fact is, Mozart had the skills of a jazz musician – a brilliant improviser who could transfer the music in his head to the keyboard instantly! Furthermore, the music he composed was contemporary music to him and others of his day – it was cool, groovy and wicked! Old fashioned or highbrow were terms that would definitely not have been in his mind at the time he composed (and improvised) and performed his works.

Why am I making this point?

The ability to improvise is an important skill – especially for the church organist.

There are always moments during a service when pieces need to be extended or suitable music played for a short time – having to find a piece to play at the bottom of a pile music is usually impractical!

There are many approaches to improvisation for church organ, but a common one is using a simple chord progression.

Here’s an example I – IV – V – I – VI – V – I  or  I – VI – IV – I – II – V – I play two chord in each bar and the last chord gets a whole bar to itself. Each sequence can be repeated.

  • Minims on top
  • Crochet movement on top
  • Quaver movement on top
  • Try inversions in the pedals

Slow Meditative
You will often be able to just play a sequence of chords and that will be fine.

Crotchet and or quaver movement at a slow to moderate tempo can be very effective and used for many situations.

Lively and Joyful
The end of the service is often the most demanding and when it is traditional to play something to show off the organist’s technique.

Don’t spend months trying to learn a piece that is very difficult to play – unless you’ve got the time of course! Playing a variation (of your own) on a hymn can be effective.

Change the rhythm – alter the harmony – change the tune slightly – make reference to other well known hymn tunes. There are so many ways to add your own personality to a chord sequence – the more you use your imagination, the more good ideas you’ll come up with.

When someone comes up to you at the end of a service and says – “I really enjoyed the last piece you played – who composed it?” you can say “I did”.