I once read that a good writer is a reader. The same aspect can be applied to instrumentalist. If you want to be good at the instrument you play you must listen to music. So over the past year or two I have come up with quite a variety of "inspiration" music (hymn instrumentals) that I listen to often. I don't like everything I hear from any certain artist, but I am able to get something out of each CD and try to apply it to my own music. I happen to be very particular about what kind of style I play, so it's very easy for me to point out what I do and don't like. I wont be discussing that in this post because it's just a matter of preference and who is to say I have the right or better taste? What I may dislike, my sister may love! So we won't spend much time on that, but you may be able to figure out my style without me spelling it out.
When I began looking for good quality piano hymns I asked a fellow blogger (who is going to college for music ministry) for recommendations. He told me about Daniel Hopkins who was making his first CD, For the Audience of One, and as soon as it was available I bought it and was very pleased! Not only do I listen to his CD over and over, but I also visit YouTube to hear many other arrangements he plays at his church in California. Daniel plays moderately fast to fast, and keeps his songs exciting (for a lack of better words). I really like his introductions because they are interesting and not too long. (Some peoples introductions last about a third of the song!) He is also very good at playing the slower "mood" or reflective songs, but when I need inspiration for a fast and fun song I always turn to Daniel Hopkin's arrangements. If I don't find what I'm looking for I at least come away with some good ideas for the introduction to my song.
Of his 5 CD's I have, Seasonal Spice, Quiet Place, and Portraits of Hope, all of which can be found at his website along with his blog. If you like orchestra music you will like Portraits of Hope, but if you prefer to listen to primarily the piano then Quiet Place is a much better place to start. If this post has been interesting to you, be sure to check out Greg Howlett's interview with Erin Bates. They both share some of their favorite piano styles and talk about the recording process.