How to Learn a Worship Song While You’re Playing It

by | Oct 27, 2020

Readers of the blog have probably learned one, very important thing about me by now: I think sheet music is dead.

Now—I realize that makes me unpopular amongst the musical purists.

However, I also recognize the utility of the Nashville Numbers System—which is why Worship By Numbers is based on that.

What utility, you might ask?


Last Sunday evening, we had a special out-of-the-ordinary church service. (Complete with chili cook-off afterward, I might add.)

For the service itself, we played a few worship songs, and in-between, had a time of testimony and sharing what the Lord has been doing in our lives.

There was a plan for the songs we were going to do.

And, as some of you may know, sometimes things don’t go “as planned.” Pastor Jake had a different idea for some of the songs we should sing, so we went with them.

Yours truly did not know one of the songs.

So I could have…

  1. Put my instrument down.
  2. Pretended to play.
  3. Learned a new song on the fly.

Options 1 and 2 weren’t necessarily the best—so I went with option 3.

Now—had I been relying on sheet music, I would not have had a prayer.

For one, the sheet music was not available. But even IF it were, I would have needed YEARS of honing my skills as a sight-reader to even have a prayer.

It’s just a bad, bad, bad system in this kind of context.

Instead, I learned the song on the fly…

Here’s how:

  1. I listened through the first verse. Admittedly, there are rare times where this will not work. However, many songs are such that the first verse (and maybe even first chorus) could be played by only the keyboardist. This was one of those times.
  2. I memorized the numbers while he was playing. With a bit of ear training, you can easily identify what number is being played.
  3. I listened for tonal cues. Matt happens to be an awesome keyboardist. One of the things about awesome keyboardists is they are very expressive, and there are certain sounds to listen for when they are making a transition to a particular chord.

Did you catch that? Here’s how I would summarize what I did: I listened.

Turns out, to be a great musician, you have to become a great listener. Being a great listener—and using a system that promotes learning new music, like Worship By Numbers—you can learn how to play any new song (even on-the-fly).

Join today to get access to “Secret #5: The OTHER Best Kept Secret in Nashville” where I devote 5 entire lessons to learning how to do this.

Here’s the link:

Steve Schramm

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