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Tip #1: Ditch the music stands

This is tricky one since a lot of volunteer worship band members have trouble memorizing a bunch of songs. I've heard a few worship leaders say "stop being lazy - just memorize the songs." That is a great ideal to shoot for, but might be a little much for an average musician with almost no free time. Most musicians (even good ones) have trouble memorizing songs unless they are playing the same songs for several weeks. It's easy to memorize a song when you are playing the exact same set list on tour for 3 months. Throw in the fact that a lot of worship teams rotate musicians in and out over the course of the month and you end up with a worship team that has a pretty fuzzy memory regarding the exact arrangement of a particular song.

My worship team used music stands for several years. It was kind of a pain because the music would fall off the stand or I would not be able to reach up fast enough to turn the page. Not to mention the all stop that occurred when we realized we all had different arrangements of a particular song. We spent a lot of time playing Sherlock Holmes to see which one of the band was playing the wrong chord from an outdated or just plain wrong chord chart.

Our team resolved these issues by using a free product called Chord Maestro to display the chord charts on a confidence screen at the back of the sanctuary. The chord chart "navigation" is controlled either by a foot pedal or through playback automation. For our church, the foot pedal is kind of a backup for when we need to veer off course. Most of the time we just record the page transitions as we're playing through a song so we can let the program magically turn the pages for us on Sunday.

Chord Maestro also helps us during practices because we are always looking at the "same sheet of music" when discussing a particular part of the song. The worship leader will often say "step back a few pages - OK there - let's talk about this part of the bridge." Accomplishing this sort of task with paper music is bit more difficult because it requires the worship leader articulate the exact location of interest. As we all know, men typically have difficult articulating stuff which leads to wasted time trying to get everyone looking at the second half of the third bridge.

Another benefit of removing the music stands is that it forces the team members to always be looking up and out towards the congregation (to see the confidence screen). Most of the congregation doesn't even realize there is a screen behind them so it really gives the impression that the band is a lot more engaged. Before we started using Chord Maestro, we sometimes got complaints that particular members of the band appeared to be "reading a book" on stage. That is, we weren't known for our electrifying stage presence.

Planning Center Online also offers a non-paper solution for chord chart display called Music Stand. It runs on iPads so the idea is that each band member controls chord chart navigation on their individual iPad. I have met people that prefer this type of approach so it's definitely worth checking out. The main drawback is that the service is not free. LiveChord is another program that can help solve the paper music and music stand issues. This is a commercial program but you can get an evaluation version if you want to check it out.

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