Timing is the name of the game if you are running ProPresenter and that is most evident during worship. It is a finely tuned skill to be able to make the subtle differences in pace from slow to fast songs and back again. My good friend Mike wrote two great posts, even has videos, about cueing ProPresenter during worship. I have posted (with permission) the two post here to make it easier to get to. Please take a few minutes to read and watch.

From Mike: (checkout his blog)

Fast Songs

Back about three years ago, I wrote a few posts demonstrating how to cue lyrics for fast and slow songs. Today, I have some fairly new presentation operators that I’m training, so I was going to send them the links to those posts. Before I sent those links, I thought it would be prudent to read them and re-watch the videos to see if I still agreed with what I wrote. If found a few thigns I didn’t really like anymore. So, I re-edited the videos and am tweaking the posts. Today, we’ll revisit the fast songs, and on Wednesday we’ll take a look at slow songs.

This is a topic that I feel pretty strongly about. Know that up front. How many times have you been in a worship service, singing a new song, and been unable to sing it because the lyrics on the screen trail the worship leader? Even if it’s a song you sort of know, it is really hard to sing along if the lyrics are not keeping up. Don’t believe me? Check it out…

This is a clip from the David Crowder song “Undignified” (I didn’t ask him if I could use it, so don’t tell him, OK? But if you find out, David, know that I have purchased all your CDs. Nothing but love here!). I have cued the lyrics the way I see a lot of people cue them. Now, even if you’ve sung this song at the top of your lungs in your car as much as I have (which is to say, a lot…), try to sing the song the way the lyrics are coming up on the screen–just as you would in church with a song you don’t know well. See how it goes.

That wasn’t too easy, now was it? The problem is simple: By the time the 1/2 second dissolve takes place, and our eyes scan back up to the first word on the new slide, he’s already onto the second line. That means we sing in fits and starts, and it’s awkward and uncomfortable. After a while, people stop singing altogether.

So how do we fix it? The answer is twofold. First, for songs this fast, I change the dissolve setting to .3 seconds (sometimes even .2). That gets the new slide up faster. Second, I cue earlier–typically in the space between the second to last and last word on the slide.

Take a look at this version and see how much easier it is to sing along with.

Here’s something that we often forget: People read a lot faster than they talk (or sing). Within a few seconds of a lyric slide hitting the screen, the audience has already read it. That’s why we can change to the next one before they’ve finished singing–they’ve already read it. By cuing the song a little early, it gives the singer a chance to get the upcoming words “in que” if you will before they need them.

Since it might be hard to see exactly when I cued those slides, I have a third version here with yellow arrows on the cue points. If I were running ProPresenter, I would hit the spacebar when we got to the arrows. Take a look.

I should also point out that in the second and third version, the first lyric slide hits the screen before David starts singing. This is important. We need to give people a second or two to get the words cued up. This can be accomplished by either A) knowing the song and arragement very well (ie. there are 8 bars of instrumental between the chorus and verse—and you know how to cound bars), or B) watching the worship leaer. Most will give a pretty clear signal that they’re getting ready to sing in a second, you just need to watch for it.

Another thing to notice that I treat two short, fast words (ie. my king) as one word and cue at the beginning of “my,” instead of “king.” The reason is simple; “my king” is sung as myking. If you wait until you get to “king,” you’ll be too late. When the song has a phrase break in it, such as between “nothing Lord is hindering this passion and my soul,” {breath} “And I’ll become…” you have a little more leeway in cuing. With those types of phrases, you can make the slide change happen during the breath.

Slower Song

OK, we’re back at it again with another example of cuing slide lyrics for songs. This time, we’ll tackle a slower song, You Alone from David Crowder’s The Lime CD. This song is tricky not because it moves so fast, but because it moves so slow. There needs to be a balance between getting the lyrics up at the right time and changing them in a musical fashion.

Changing slides (or switching cameras for that matter) in a musical manner is one of the hardest things to teach. I would go so far as to say that some people will never “get it.” It takes being able to count, almost instinctively, and know the music well enough that you can stay ahead without being obnoxious.

Let’s start off with a not so good example. This is how the song might be cued by someone who doesn’t really know the song, or have a good understanding of how it needs to move musically. Sorry it’s over 2 min, it’s a slow song.

What you can see from that is the slides lagged behind every time. Again, this fragments worship, and causes those in attendance to sing, stop, jump in, stop, etc. It’s not smooth or easy. Also notice there was a four bar bridge in which the previous verse just hung on the screen. This is confusing for people. We expect that if there are words on the screen, we will be singing them, if not right this second, sometime soon. Yet, here we are with a 15 second interlude with the words hanging there like old wallpaper. Not ideal.

So what’s the remedy? First, as always, we need to stay ahead of the game. Second, there should be a blank slide inserted between the two verses. In our example here, I’m using a black background. In real life, I would have some type of photographic/graphic background behind the words, and we’d go to that. Let’s run another example with my suggested cuing points.

Hopefully, you notice the difference. The real question is how do you decide where to cue a slow-moving song like that? For the answer to that question, we need to dive into a little music theory. First you need to know that songs are broken up in to measures (or bars). Each measure has a specific number of beats in it. This song is written in 6/8 time.  This means that each measure is made up of 6 eight notes, and the beat happens on 1 and 4.As you listen to the song, you can count along; 1,2,3,4,5,6; 2,2,3,4,5,6; 3,2,3,4,5,6; 4,2,3,4,5,6. That represents 4 measures. I change the first number in each sequence to remind me where I am. As you can see, I wrote this incorrectly the first time which just proves that I really didn’t pay much attention during music theory class. Thanks to Keith for helping me get it right.

Just like video editing of music numbers, visual changes should happen on the beat (I can’t stand music videos that are not cut to the beat, they’re so jarring). With a song moving this slowly, it’s easy to change on the 4th beat of a measure and still have the slide up at the right time.

Here’s another example with some beat markers thrown in to illustrate the point. Note that the song actually has an 8 bar intro, and I’m just showing you 4. The top number is the measure number, the bottom is the beat within that measure.

This is where taking a few minutes to talk to the worship leader (and even better, listen to the songs ahead of time) comes in very handy. If you know that a song has a 4-bar intro, you can count right along and get the words up just before the lyrics start. If there is a 4-bar instrumental between verse 1 and verse 2, you know to put a blank in and count along. I will often even label my blanks “4-bar Instrumental” so I remember.

Someone asked last week what the rule for blank slides is. I’m not sure there is a rule, but my general practice is if it’s 2 bars or more, I’ll throw in a blank over an instrumental. This particular song has a 1-bar break between the first and second phrases of the verse, and when I played with it, it seemed more disruptive to dip to a blank, then come back 3 beats later. But for the 4 bar, a blank is a definite improvement.

Again, these are not hard and fast rules, but they should give you some guidance on best practices. Every song is a little different and can be interpreted a few different ways. The goal, however, needs to be a seamless appearance of lyrics at the right time that feels like it’s connected to the music. Get that right, and you’re one giant step closer to creating that environment of immersive and engaging worship.

One Response to “Keeping up the Joneses….well the worship leaders”

  1. Cindy Carroll says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post. This is something that we also try to teach our propresentor operators. I feel like the screens are something that should assist in leading worship. We also ask our operators to be at our weekly rehearsal and also encourage them to go online to planningcenteronline.com to listen to the songs before rehearsals. You confirm several of my theories in your post. I’m going to have to pull up my computer to watch your videos. Would it be ok to use them in some of our training?

    Thanks
    Cindy

Leave a Reply