Sheet Music

Gospel Piano Lessons & Sheet Music

By Hoffman Academy Team
Gospel piano music lessons & song tutorials.

Learn how to play gospel piano music and find links to free sheet music below

Enjoy the beautiful and soulful sounds of gospel piano with our free sheet music and tutorials. 

What is gospel piano?

Gospel piano draws on the tradition of gospel music, which is a style of Christian worship music. It has its earliest roots in the 1700’s with great gospel classics like John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” and Augustus Toplady’s “Rock of Ages.” At that time, most church music was written in a more classical style, but these songs had simpler melodies and harmonies that made them memorable and accessible to everyone. To this day, they continue to be some of the best-loved hymns in Christian and gospel music.

Modern gospel piano grew out of African-American worship music in the early twentieth century. It incorporates elements of jazz, blues, boogie, rock, and soul to evoke powerful emotions, whether joyful, contemplative, or sorrowful. Played as a piano solo or as accompaniment for singing, gospel piano music combines the melodies of well-loved hymns with expressive popular music styles. For many people, listening to and performing gospel piano music is a favorite way to share their spiritual devotion.

Gospel pianists to know

One of the first gospel pianists was Juanita “Arizona” Dranes. Born blind, she learned to play the piano as a teenager. She was one of the first women to become a professional gospel singer and recording artist in the 1920’s. In her day, most gospel music was performed acapella, but she introduced an energetic rag-time piano accompaniment. Her innovative style of backing gospel tunes with the popular instrumental music of the day still lives on in today’s gospel music.

Thomas A. Dorsey shaped the sound of gospel music in the twentieth century. He wrote over 1000 gospel songs during his musical career, which lasted from the 1920’s until the 1970’s. Some of his most famous songs include “Precious Lord Take My Hand” and “If You See My Saviour.” His style of improvising with familiar hymns, adding a blues-style accompaniment and freely making changes to the tempo and melody, gave him a powerful ability to engage and connect with his listeners. He also introduced joyful, energetic Spirituals, based on traditional African-American songs from the Southern United States, to church worship music.

There are many modern gospel pianists, but one of the most notable is Kirk Franklin. He learned to play the piano starting at four years old, and was directing the choir at his church by age 11. Since he began his music recording career in the early 1990’s, he’s won 20 Grammy awards. His gospel music continues the tradition of blending worship music with modern popular music sounds, such as urban contemporary, rap, and R&B.

Gospel piano chords

Much of the familiar sound of gospel music comes from its chords. Because of its close relationship with popular music, gospel shares many chords and chord progressions with blues and jazz. What sets these styles of music apart is the use of dissonant sounds in almost every chord. In basic triads, which form the foundation of harmony in most classical music, three notes are spaced with either a major third or a minor third between them. In gospel music, additional notes are added to the triad to give the sound tension and dissonance. You’ll hear many chords played as a seventh chord, meaning the seventh tone above the root of the chord is played with the triad. This creates a dissonance with the root of the chord an octave up. Another popular chord is the add9 chord, which means the ninth above the root is played. This note can either be played stacked on top of the seventh chord, adding another dissonance with the tonic an octave up, or played an octave down within the triad for an even tighter sound.

An add9 chord, often used in gospel piano music.

Another unique feature of gospel and related styles of music is the use of the ii7 chord, and sometimes its major form, the II7. This chord, built on the second tone of the scale, isn’t as commonly heard as the I, IV, V7, and vi chords that make up a large percentage of popular music. In the key of C, this chord is D minor seventh.

Gospel piano music uses ii7 chords, like this D minor 7 chord.

To learn more about chords and chords notation, check out this article.

A sequence of chords, called a chord progression, takes a song on a journey, often going through the sounds of major, minor, dissonance, tension, and then finally back home to the root chord of the key signature. When composers use a familiar chord progression they’re taking a musical path that they know listeners enjoy hearing. Using familiar chord progressions is also helpful when performers want to improvise. A singer or instrumentalist who knows the chord progression can improvise a melody with a variety of notes to choose from that go with each chord of the accompaniment. By becoming familiar with gospel chord progressions and learning the relationship of melodic notes to these chords, a gospel music performer can enjoy a wide range of creativity and expression.

Here are some common gospel chords and simple chord progressions:

V7 – I

The simplest gospel chord progression for beginners is V7-I. This chord progression can be used to accompany Amazing Grace. In the key of C, the chords are G7 and C. 

Gospel piano music uses the ii7-V7-I chord progression.


A common chord progression heard at the end of many gospel songs is the ii7-V7-I chord progression. This familiar progression signals the listener that the song is over and brings it to a satisfying close. Here is this chord progression in the key of C. The chords are Dm7, G7, and C. For extra jazzy flair, you can finish off with a Cadd9 chord.

Gospel piano music may use the ii7-V7-I chord progression, like Dm7-G7-C.


This is a four chord progression that’s often heard in gospel, blues, jazz, and popular music. It’s a good one to learn if you’re a piano player. Once you’re familiar with the chords, try playing this chord progression in the left hand while improvising a melody in the right hand. When you’re done with your song, finish up with a I chord. Did you notice that adding a I chord at the end of this progression creates the ii7-V7-I ending mentioned before? In the key of C, the chords will be C, Am, Dm7, and G7. You can also play any of these chords in the sequence as a 7th chord or an add9 chord. Experiment and see what sounds best to you!

Gospel piano music may use the I-vi-ii7-V7 chord progression: C-Am-Dm7-G7.

Walking up with ii7-I-ii7-I

A common way to begin a section in gospel music is to “walk up” by using inversions to alternate between the ii7 and the I chord. To do this, make sure your bass note is moving up the scale one note at a time, and then play the notes of the chord above it. In the key of C, the chords will be Dm7 and C, and the walk-up will look like this:

Gospel piano music uses chord progressions like walking up with ii7-I-ii7-I: Dm7-C/E-Dm7/F-C/G.

Now put it all together! Try walking up with ii7-I-ii7-I, then playing the I-vi-ii7-V7 chord progression several times, then finish with an extra ii7-V7-I! If you like, you can add a “bridge” section somewhere in the middle that uses just V7-I.

What are easy gospel songs to play on the piano?

You can find the sheet music to these three easy gospel songs in the Hoffman Academy store.

Amazing Grace 

This gospel favorite may be one of the best-loved Christian hymns of all time. Download the free sheet music for Early Elementary and Late Elementary level from our store and check out our series of leveled video tutorials for this song:

If you’re ready for more advanced gospel piano playing, try experimenting with the chords and adding a little improvisation. Create an intro by adding the walk-up before you begin the melody. As you play, turn any chord in the song into a seventh chord or an add 9 chord. When the melody is over, continue playing for a few measures, improvising over the ii7-V7-I ending.

When the Saints Go Marching In

This energetic gospel hymn is a favorite of New Orleans jazz bands. Play and sing along with this elementary level arrangement. This sheet music is a free download for Hoffman Academy premium members, or can be purchased for $1.99.

Jesus Loves Me

Another traditional Christian hymn, the flowing melody of this familiar tune lends itself well to gospel-style performance:

Download the free sheet music for early elementary level or get the late elementary level version for $2.99 (no charge for premium members). While this arrangement is written in a straightforward hymn style, you can practice adding a little gospel flair by swinging the eighth notes, being free with the tempo, and improvising changes to the melody. Get creative and have fun!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this exploration of gospel piano music. If you’d like to learn more about playing the piano, sign up for Hoffman Academy!

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