I love the fact that in each issue we get a chance to talk about problems. Why? Because I tend to see most of the problems we encounter as opportunities to strengthen our teams in the process of making Sunday a better experience for all. Although sound problems might not go away overnight, they tend to be pretty similar from church to church, as are the solutions. At the risk of over-simplifying things, if your team only used in-ears monitors, electronic drums and eliminated all amps from the platform… chances are that many of your sound problems on Sunday would be solved. While this might not be the most musical solution, I would like to believe that most of us could see the obvious benefits.
Unlike sound problems, chart-related challenges are pervasive in that they affect teams at home, during rehearsal, and on Sundays.
Like sound problems, chart-related challenges are multi-faceted. Unlike sound problems, chart-related challenges are pervasive in that they affect teams at home, during rehearsal, and on Sundays. They also tend to get far too little attention, hence this column.
COMMON CHART PROBLEMS
Besides the all-too-frequent wrong chords and musicians who are not yet “chart-friendly”, we also face the challenge of getting everyone on the same page when it comes to arrangements. “New Wine” from Hillsong Worship’s new disc is a great example. Most of us are not going to go the full eight minutes of the original recording, and if we do, chances are we’re not going to play the form exactly as the Hillsong team does. Big problem? Not necessarily!
Appoint a Chart Master
Chances are there is someone on your team who is skilled enough to walk through your charts and catch any mistakes before your team has a chance to memorize them. Buying them a gift card at your local coffee house is a great way to reward their good deeds!
Boil It Down
Last month, Gabe Bondoc, the Creative Director at my church shared how he likes to boil EDM (Electronic Dance Music) songs like “This Is Living” down to the chords and lyrics, the essence of a great song. Keep in mind that you don’t need a bank of synths to bring these songs to life… even with just an acoustic guitar and one vocalist these songs work!
Dumb It Down
And if by chance your team isn’t able to play through a somewhat complex arrangement, that’s OK too. Coming back to the “New Wine” example, next to no one is going to play the exact Hillsong arrangement, so the concept of dumbing things down, even just a bit will go a long way toward getting everyone on the same page – tech and sound team included!
PICKING GOOD KEYS
Appoint a Vocal Director
Many if not most Worship Pastors/Creative Directors have busy lives and a pretty full plate. Appointing a Vocal Director is a great way to solve the whole key problem. Have them sing with each of the worship leaders to document their range, and then pow wow with the Chart Master to find keys that are complimentary to their voices.
Ditch the Octave Jumps
Many worship leaders dread attempting octave jumps in the melodies, and guess what – they aren’t any easier for your congregation to sing either. Again, find a key that works for your worship leaders.
Ditch the Flat Keys
Truth be told, I loathe playing in flat keys on guitar, or bass for that matter. Given the prevalence of guitars in worship music, if at all possible find keys that are guitar friendly. This will also avert most of the capo-driven meltdowns that we’ve all experienced!
ARRANGEMENTS AREN’T JUST FOR THE WORSHIP TEAM
Musicians tend to forget that the media team also have to be able to track your arrangement, given the fact that they are responsible for the congregation seeing the right words at the right time. And while we’re at it, let’s not fail to recognize that most sound techs are musicians, and they too will benefit from having an articulate chart in front of them.
PLANNING CENTER ONLINE TO THE RESCUE
As noted in the video below, PCO enables you to import lyrics and chords so you can easily fix wrong chords, transpose keys and add arrangements via the Sequence tab in the Lyrics and Chords window. Then when you’re done, simply share the PDFs with your worship, sound, and media teams to eliminate most every chart problem!