“Gospel Keyboard Studies”:
An Accompanist’s Resource
Gospel Keyboard Studies is a 13-installment series of lessons in hymn improvisation authored by Burl Faywood. Hymn improvisation is the art of adding unique musical elements to a basic hymn tune. The lessons explored in detail such techniques as complex chords, adding runs, and how to work effectively within the meter of the basic melody.
Mr. Faywood lived in Alcester, SD, and offered the lessons as a serial mail-order self-study course in 1980. Each lesson was six pages long. One would arrive every 2 weeks over a six-month period. In the early ’80’s, GCCC director Thomas DeBusk acquired a full set of the lessons. But, like a much-loved stuffed animal, his copies suffered and dwindled over the years.
Efforts to obtain a complete set have yet to pay off. Numerous emails have been sent, and messages have been posted online inquiring about Mr. Faywood’s lessons. Not long ago, the Moody Bible Institute library possessed a copy, but someone checked it out and never returned it. The library won’t divulge the identity of that person and has been unable to secure its return.
Phone calls to individuals and churches in Alcester, SD have not turned up additional lessons, or anyone who knows, or knew of, Mr. Faywood, or any of his living family members. It is unknown if Mr. Faywood is still living. Inquiries at various university music departments, such as Bob Jones University, Prairie Bible Institute, Biola University, and Baylor University have not generated additional copies or leads.
One internet search did turn up Paul Olson, formerly of Northwest Nazarene University. Mr. Olson had copies of several lessons, which he generously shared. Thanks to him, complete copies of lessons 1, 2, 8, 9, 10, 12, and 13 are in hand.
It would be a great benefit to future pianists to provide access here to copies of all 13 lessons. They are exceptional for the way they break down, explain, and teach various improvisational techniques.
So the existing lessons have been transcribed into a modern format that can be readily distributed. They are available as PDF downloads here as a service to the music community. The hope is that this partial set will provoke someone who possesses the missing lessons to reach out and share them, so that someday, a complete set will again be available. If you should happen to have any of the missing lessons, please use the contact form here to send us a message.
No small effort has been expended to reproduce these lessons with modern digital tools. Although updated fonts have replaced creaky monospaced typewriter fonts and Mr. Faywood’s handwritten titles and other notes, care has been taken to re-create the look and feel of the original documents. Wherever possible, sizes, layout, and pagination have been preserved. However, slight errors and/or inconsistencies have been corrected, in order to reflect better on the original author.
The original lessons carried the notation that they were copyrighted on their face. But it is unclear who might hold that copyright today, or whether it is still valid. If you believe you have a current claim to this material, please contact us here. The goal of this effort isn’t to profit from making these lessons available. Rather, it is to inspire anyone who might have copies of the missing lessons (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 11) to provide them, so a full set of this excellent resource can be obtained and, perhaps, once again made readily available to all.
Lesson 3 Unvailable
Lesson 4 Unavailable
Lesson 5 Unavailable
Lesson 6 Unavailable
Lesson 7 Unavailable
Lesson 11 Unavailable
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