Okay, here's a question for everyone... do you allow your team to use music stands on the platform during services? I know lots of people have opinions on this topic. I personally see a bit of both sides. I don't like a bunch of music stands across the front of the platform as it doesn't look good visually, but people using iPads on smaller stands that take up less real estate is less annoying visually. However, the biggest issue of course is how stuck people are in their stands. When I see a worship team where everyone is buried in their stand the whole time, it's frustrating. Someone that is so focused on a chord chart that they can't just worship and help to lead the congregation... that is someone that isn't fully doing their job in my opinion.

I don't mind if someone has a chart in front of them. I personally love having my iPad with OnSong loaded up so I have charts and my personal notes. However I don't look at it much in the middle of the service. It's more of an occasional reference if/when needed... usually to make sure I don't mess up lyrics. :) But I am aware and make sure that I'm not just eyes down on the screen all the time.

For some people, they can't keep their eyes off of their stands if it's there. They'll look just because it's there. Just like the congregation has a tendency to watch the screen for lyrics the whole time, even if they know the lyrics and don't really need the help. So some need to not have a stand so they're forced to engage and also forced to prepare more and make sure they really learn the music to begin with.

Just some of my thoughts. Anyone else? What's your experience, suggestions, etc?

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Our musicians use iPads, however we just had a meeting this week and decided to encourage everyone to memorize their music the best they can. I don’t think they stand out too bad on stage, but if we know our music better we can let go and focus on the worship rather than following the music. We won’t take the iPads/stands away though

Thanks for your input! I agree with your stance on it. :)

We've got stands, and every week I put the chord chart books in order (usually late Saturday night, like tonight).  My philosophy for our band is to make it as easy for them, to give them the bast chance of succeeding every week at "being in the band," and so no expectation of people memorizing the lyrics.  Also, we try to do the songs in a regular structure, so our chord charts help us stay in sync with the lyrics being projected.

For what it's worth, I did realize the other week that our band members are involved in a LOT of things at the church - they're re-organizing the administrative board at our church and four of the eight or nine people on the board are also in the band.  Our bass player is now the "worship" representative on the board, so he's also my "boss."  One singer is the person who approves spending requests.  Frequently, somebody in the band is also the liturgist (scripture reading and a prayer or something).  Our drummer often misses half of the service because he's teaching Sunday School.  A couple people are on the Missions committee, and when Missions has a trip to Mexico to deliver Christmas gifts, furniture, do construction, etc., I'm frequently in on that.  Our sound guy also teaches Sunday School during second service (so I run the sound for that).

So in our church, the people who are in the band carry a lot of other responsibilities as well, and stuff like memorizing music is just not a priority for us.  I realize that it's different for other churches, and that our band would probably sound better if the people in the band had that as their main responsibility.  With our band, I've just accepted that it's useful for people in the congregation to look at us and realize, "oh, yeah, that singer, he's also the guy who goes up on the lift and replaces light bulbs, that lady is one of our Stephen ministers."

Good point for sure. I think the average stat in churches is that 20% of the congregation does 80% of the work to make everything run and happen. So no surprise that the band members are carrying double duty. I would have a hard time forcing team members to memorize all material. I personally hate hearing when a senior/lead pastor applies that condition on the worship team. I mean, does he/she memorize the entire sermon? Of course not. :)

I think the worship team should be encouraged to be as prepared as possible so they don't have to lean on the music stand the entire service. Maybe even just encouraged to try and kick off the training wheels for songs that they've already played 200 times. Sometimes they'll just follow the chart even if they could play it in their sleep... just because it's there. I know I like having charts in front of me though... just in case. :)

Interesting thing about charts... I "know" how most of our songs go, but in the upper right corner of our charts, the key the song is in is there in big type, and more than once I've found myself looking there, going... "okay, I know the next chord is the V chord, but what is that?  Okay, we're in the key of A, so it must be an E.  It's quicker to look at that big-font "key" info than to try to find where we are in the song and see what the next chord is.  Of course, a guitar player who can't remember all the way through a three-minute song what key we're in... must be a real geezer :-)

They're also valuable just in terms of keeping things consistent between the players.  There might be a spot in a song where, playing by ear, I might play a "G" chord or I might play an "Em."  Having the chords right there, I can tell that the bass player is expecting an "Em," so if I play a G and he hits an E note on the bass, it's gonna be weird, and it's my fault.  Again, geezer time!

Actually, I think a lot of pastors DO memorize the sermon, or at least they give it without reading it word for word.  Though they have the advantage that there aren't four or five backup preachers trying to stay in sync with them.  And the sermon text isn't being projected, so nobody will know if they discuss point 3 before point 2.

I guess that stat is another example of what is often called the 80/20 rule, you can get 80% results for the first 20% of the effort.  What people don't extrapolate from that is that if you want to get to 100% results (memorizing all the songs?), you have to do FIVE TIMES as much to get to that 100% effort that it takes to get 100 % results.  So maybe singing from music stands is that 80% that lets us cut the work of the singers in 1/5th.

Given the amount of songs we use at church and the amount of time available for the group to rehearse, it has to be stands all the way. If I'm leading, it's mainly so that I can glance down for a reminder of the words the congregation are expecting and the chords the rest of the band are expecting and it is important not to have my eyes glued to music.

As a supporting musician though, where I might often be getting songs I don't know well and getting them at short notice, having music to look at is valuable and I don't think it matters if I'm looking at it a lot, as long as my ears are still open and I've got enough capacity to remain in visual contact with the rest of the group, particularly the leader. To be honest, most of the songs are pretty easy to busk along to but, given a map, why take the risk of coming off at odd corners?

In a lot of musical contexts, the musicians don't have stands but they have probably put a significant time into rehearsing each song. Equally though, there are plenty of settings where everyone has a stand - such as orchestral music. Again, in the kind of jazz gigs I get, charts are very common.

Yes, having a stand is a sign that I haven't memorised every song we use at church but I'd far rather have that than be limited to a tiny repertoire of songs that the whole group knows well and I don't think that it has to be a binary choice between looking at the music and engaging in worship.


Very good points Wulf! I definitely agree... doesn't have to be one way or the other. Somewhere in the middle I guess. :)

I always use a music stand with chord sheets mainly because I cover too much music to memorise.  Also, although I'm all in favour of stretching myself and taking risks, I feel that knowing myself the way I do, then it would be an unnecessary risk for me to succumb to mental blanks.  Ok, it's a safety net and even the music stand in itself feels like its something you can hide behind but on the plus side you wouldn't believe the amount of people who think I'm working from score music and they ain't got a clue that I'm following chords and my own scribbles that prompt me.  So, music stands can also make you look very professional ; ) 

Mind you Nathan I read this discussion before anyone commented and on Sunday I made an effort to look up from the stand because of your comments, something I had not been conscious of!

Hey Lorraine! Yes this has been a good discussion. I certainly don't feel bad at all having my iPad in front of me. I'd rather it be there for me to double-check some lyrics than to mess them up and cause a distraction. Like everything else in life, I guess it's just about balance. Don't use it more than you have to and get buried in it... but also don't feel bad for having there to use as needed.

Glad the comments here were a help to you on Sunday! Isn't that what this is all about? :)

Hey Nathan, good topic, just a quick question does the pastor use a stand / lectern? If so then he /she must need it for a good reason;  even if they are nervous and new to preaching or old hats, there still is a reason. This will apply to the musicians as well, and it could be since some are nervous, some may need it to hold the Ipad etc or in a negative way to hide behind ( even though they are still seen).

Maybe if you are involved enough with each person, asked them, why they use it and do they really need it and if not can they change for a Sunday and report back how it all went. Ok, with the worship leaders permission of course.

On another side of this, I believe it is the musicians and leading singers who lift up the congregation into worship and battle for the church as a whole, and I find it hard when they are not enjoying what they are doing or involved in the worship but only in their playing. Like not smiling or being   connected to the church and connected to even to the worship leader.

Good point Allan! I've always had that same thought when the criticism of not having music memorized comes from the pastor who preaches from his notes, Bible, iPad, etc. hahaha :)


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