• Ask Jermaine: “How To Play Gospel Piano Scales”

    by Jermaine Griggs · 30 comments

    in Experienced players,Gospel music,Piano

    We’re back for another “Ask Jermaine” where I choose a student’s question and give my personal take on it — this week on gospel piano scales.

    (By the way, you can submit your questions here).

    Today’s questions is from Ade:

    Hi, it’s Ade here. I’m a young 14-year old player and just want to know how many types of gospel piano scales there are and which ones I really need to know to progress as a gospel player. I already understand major scales and the circle of fifths and am now working on minor scales. You are doing a great job with your gift and this site. Thanks and God bless

    My answer:


    Just by your question, I can see you’re a serious player… even at the tender age of 14.

    When I get questions from youngins’ like you, I don’t take them lightly because I too was a young church musician. At 7 years old, after getting tired of beating on pots and pans and getting spankins’ for putting holes in our couch, I moved on to playing this old antique piano my grandma won on the “Price Is Right” in the 70’s.

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    Long story short, one thing led to another and by 12 I was playing for multiple churches, youth choirs, gospel choir competitions and more. So I know from personal experience, music has no age barrier. If you don’t believe me, check out this amazingly talented 8-year old gospel organist, Jayden Arnold.

    Gospel Piano Scales

    When it comes to gospel piano scales, you have many options.

    I’d say the most popular gospel piano scales are:

    In fact, there’s really no such thing as “gospel piano scales” — scales are scales and regardless of whether you’re playing gospel, jazz, or blues, there’s places to fit all scales. Granted, some styles utilize certain ones more than others.

    Gospel Piano Scales – Whole tone

    Since I’ve covered the blues scale, pentatonic scale, and minor pentatonic scale extensively in the past (see above links), I’ll just cover the ones I haven’t written about here.

    When it comes to gospel piano scales, the whole tone scale is a great tool to have in your arsenal and pretty simple to understand. It’s basically all whole steps.

    Half steps are from key to key with no keys in between. Whole steps always skip a key with one key in between.

    C Whole Tone: C – D – E – F# – G# – A#

    And because every note is the same distance apart (equidistant), there are really only two unique whole tone scales.

    Why? Because if you play this same scale above starting and ending on D, you get the same exact notes.

    Starting and ending on E, same thing.

    Basically, pick a note in the scale and play the same notes and you’ve got yourself a brand new whole tone scale without changing up anything.

    So the only other whole tone scale is on B (or any other note of that scale, as explained above):

    B Whole Tone: B Db Eb F G A B

    These are great gospel piano scales to use with:

    • Augmented chords
    • Augmented 7th chords
    • Dominant 7 #9 #5 (very popular in gospel)
    • Dominant 7 b9 #5 (very popular as well)

    …and many others.

    (If you’ve taken GospelKeys 202, you’ll know the last two chords on the list are VERY popular in gospel. They can be used on the 2, b3, 3, b5, and 6 — but most popular on the 3 as passing chords. You’d simply play the chord in your left hand and experiment with different whole tone gospel piano scales in your right, knowing that there are really only 2 unique scales… and all the rest just start on different tones but use the same notes).

    Gospel Piano Scales – Diminished Scale

    The diminished scale is also a pretty cool gospel piano scale you can use with diminished chords (…which occur a lot in gospel).

    Just like the whole tone scale, you don’t have to remember 12 distinct scales because they repeat. There are only 3 unique diminished scales.

    E♭ diminished (F♯/G♭, A, C diminished): E♭, F, F♯, G♯, A, B, C, D, E♭
    D diminished (F, A♭, B diminished): D, E, F, G, A♭, B♭, B, C♯, D
    D♭ diminished (E, G, B♭ diminished): D♭, E♭, E, F♯, G, A, B♭, C, D♭

    How do you remember which scales share the same notes?

    Answer: Just remember which diminished chords share the same notes!

    Let’s look at these 4 diminished chords:

    C diminished 7: C + Eb + Gb + A

    Eb diminished 7: Eb + Gb + A + C

    Gb diminished 7: Gb + A + C + Eb

    A diminished 7: A + C + Eb + Gb

    They share the same notes don’t they? Therefore, their corresponding diminished scales will be the same. So just commit the three diminished scales above to memory, remember which ones group together, and you’ll have even more gospel piano scales to add to your repertoire!

    And because diminished 7 chords are commonly found on the b2, b3, 3, b5, b6, and 6 tones of the scale, you’ll have many opportunities to employ these gospel piano scales.

    When it comes to gospel piano scales, if you master the 6 here, you’ll never run out of ideas.

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    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

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    { 29 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Wesley

    Hi Jermain:

    Let me say first of all that I have learned a lot from the resources I have ordered from H&P; however, I was wondering if it would be possible for you to put together a DVD course that primarily focuses on showing musicians how to play scales and their corresponding chord progressions. Most of the resources I have found online pretty much points to the lead sheets, and it blows because i don’t know how to read music. If we could have a finger by finger kind of tutorial on how to play scales, that would be great. You can even incorporate arpeggios in the course. This is just a suggestion.

    God bless!


    2 Gary

    Jermaine, thanks for the information you give. Reading through “How to Play Gospel Piano Scales” was what I needed to get back on track. I was blessed by other parts of the ezine as well. You have a God given gift for making the complicated simple for beginners like me. For various reasons, I haven’t practice in about 3 months, today, because of what I read, I am encouraged to start practicing again. Thanks man.



    3 Ade

    wow thanks a lot for answering my questions i will start working on those scales


    4 Jermaine Griggs

    My pleasure Ade. Keep up the great work.



    5 randall

    I have pretty much taught myself to play the keyboard. My favorite part of learning so far was when I found out from you about scales, numbering system,and circle of fifths. I really enjoy discovering all of the new sounds and creating my own stuff just because it’s pleasing to my own ear. So, even though I still consider myself a “plunker,” thanks to your tips, I’m a better sounding and much more knowledgeable “plunker!” Thanks so much. P.S. When I perfect the hymn that I’m building, I would like to be able to relay it to you. Any suggestions? Thanks again…..Randall


    6 randall

    Hello again, I forgot to thank Ade for his inquiry. I’m sure I’ll benefit greatly from that info as well….Randall


    7 Stanley

    God has sent you to transform pple lyk me.
    How can one get the CD to these piano courses.I’m in Nigeria now.


    8 rishi

    Hi I got you’re dvd from my friend. he bought it and he gave it to me as a gift. and boy I love them. it’s really cool cuz I learn alot from you. thanks


    9 Cornell

    Hey Jermaine I just wanna thank you for coming out with your Gospel DVD’s… I cant tell you in
    words how it has helped me In my playing… but what I can tell you Is because of them I’ve done something that I never thought I would ever do In my life and that was playing In church. Right today because of Gospel Keys 202 I know the number system and the songs that you have on them… and before your DVD’s I knew nothing about a number system or even knew how to play any of those gospel songs that you taught on them so I just wanna say I thank God for putting you In my path my bro! Are you ever going to come out with a DVD that teaches how to play more Gospel songs step by step?


    10 SammieKeys

    Wow dis is gr8,…God works in misterous ways…i just started to understand those scale 2day @my reharsals…and wen i check my box am seeing dsame tin…dis is really interesting,..dis definitly is really gonna help me…tanks Mentor


    11 Jacob

    This was a very interesting article. You are there when we need you and that is good. I have learned the diminished chords or scale. Jacob


    12 Ferdinand

    Hello pls send me the eazy way to play the gosplekey perfectly i am a beginner i madly want to play gosple songs in my church


    13 Ferdinand

    How to master gosplekeys perfectly pls send me what i must learn thank you


    14 Tshephang mapiti

    I am a young man of 25, I live in Botswna, Africa. I play the piano in church, but I did not go for music school. I really thank you 4 the lessons you are giving us. Still luking fo a music school. If there is one pliase connect me! Be blessed


    15 Damilola olugbemi

    I know I don’t only receive your mails but one of your bonafide student. As a student I been enjoying your real initiative about playing by ear. I’ve been putting these lovely tips to work and indeed it has been working. Being a world class keyboardist requires time to really pull forth God’s creativity in these things. Thanks Germaine and God bless.


    16 David Kwami

    I want be perfect in all the chord but don’t no how


    17 T#

    Wonderful site! My visit here was not a waste! Tankz bro. Keep it up! God bless


    18 Joseph sunday

    Pls am a Bohemian how can I get your DVD really want to improve ..pls help me out..


    19 Zion olulowo

    Woow… Cool, wonderful, superb site. Am really lucky, i’v always wanted to know how to play the piano since i was a kid, am just a young guy of 17yrs. Pls, Can you help me Out?


    20 Gabriel

    hi. Please help me playing a keyboard as a begginer. My mom bot it for me but i cant play it. The language, and practical. Rielgab@ovi.com


    21 Kayode

    Thanks, pls i nid chord to play worship and hilife song (owu.kayode@yahoo.com)


    22 ninz

    Hi jermaine I would like to ask you how to do scaling with the chords? for example I done C with the chords of C how can I identify the notes with the Rh and Lh?


    23 ninz

    I hope you will respond to it thank you!


    24 kolawole Richard

    Pls, i need different pentatonic scales in both major and minor. secondly, how to run your fingers very fast and playing 4 notes at a go with your right hand


    25 tope

    my name is tope,plss how can i know whch scales go with whch chord and how can i know the rite scales whch i will be able to use for the rite beat or song


    26 DanielMaduKauji

    hi Sir Griggs am vry happy 4 what u did to me in my piano course, i’ve learn many chord on d piano like d major scale i started playing piano since when i was 11years that was 10years back but the problem we’ve in our region is the moment a person seems he knw hw to play piano he will be feeling to big to teach it, when i start it there was no theory for the piano i really find it hard at first bt the moment i came in contact with u i was able to play it and now am a teacher teaching for 3 people in our church. am vry delighted


    27 Omotehinse Daniel

    Am a young pianist also, really love this site H&P, anytime i got problems with scales and chords progressions, i come here, My online Tutor


    28 Martins

    Hi Mr. Jermaine, you are doing a great job… Uhm, i just have a question for you. “Does every chord possess its own scale”. I think it does but i ain’t sure just wanna confirm from ya and please add a little illustration.


    29 Jermaine Griggs

    Every chord comes from an underlying scale. By playing triads (skipping every other tone of the scale), you can discover them. Major and minor scales give us major, minor, and diminished triads. Melodic and harmonic scales give us all those triads plus the augmented triad. Use seventh chords (4 tones) on every other degree of the scale and you create even more chords. The links at the top of this blog post cover them all: http://www.hearandplay.com/main/melodic-minor-7th-chords-demystified


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