The (Music) Doctor is In!

Posted by on Nov 17, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

The (Music) Doctor is In!


Everyone has their own way of doing therapy. At least everyone should! For some people it is exercise or team sports. Not me. For some people it is shopping! That’s not me either. Some people cook and eat. Yes, I am probably guilty of that, but that is a different blog. Some people read. Check. Some people use music. . . Bingo! That is me.


When I get frustrated or sad, the best (nonfattening) way I can deal with it is to sit at the piano and play. I’ll pull out a classical book and play a few simple pieces. I’ll play through a book one piano teacher insisted I buy if I wanted to take lessons from her. I resisted, but those pieces speak to me. I pound out the hymns in the hymn book that express God’s might and power. Sometimes, I pull out hymn arrangement books and play pieces I learned in the past.


My mom said she could tell what mood I was in by how I played the piano. It is my best therapy.

Holy Holy Holy

I love playing for church. I am not the most talented or accomplished pianist, but I have developed a unique style over the years. I play a lot by ear, but can read notes. I use a lot of broken cords in my accompaniment and I like to alternate octaves to add variety.  There is probably a technical term for how I play, but I don’t know it.


Before I was married, our church in South Dakota hosted a Singspiration for area churches every few months. Often a young girl would come up and ask me if I could show her how to play like I do. I was always at a loss. It is just how I play. I did eventually figure out the broken chord thing and I would share that with her. Hopefully, it was helpful.


This started me wondering. How did I get this style? Where did it come from?


The other day, I sat down to play. I felt like playing some of the hymn arrangements I have learned over the years so I pulled the first book out of the pile. Wow! It had been years since I first played from that book, nondescript cover, worn by years of use. Then it hit me. This was the first real live hymn arrangement book I ever used.


I remembered how daunting the pieces seemed when I first opened the book. They were way beyond my ability. But, taking on the challenge I learned the pieces measure by measure, line by line, until I knew it. If a section was just too over the top difficult, I made up my own little arrangement using a similar style to the rest of the piece. I improvised.

sheet music

I started playing through it, piece after piece. My fingers stumbled in spots that I once played by heart. It had been too long. But, as I played I found the answer to my question. This book was written in “my style.” The pieces used broken chords and alternating octaves to make the hymn beautiful, special.



This was where I learned my style. Without even realizing it, my piano style had been formed by the connection my brain found with the way the arranger wrote the pieces. It became part of me, and when I played for congregational singing I began to pull in the styles and add them. My ability grew.


It isn’t always the big things in life that inform who we become. Sometimes, it is just the simple things. The plain-covered hymn arrangement book. The one that looks too hard. The one that can become your best therapy.