Spinning off from the discussion of 'irrelevant skills', and particularly the subsection about what to call the chord spelt: B D F A C (Dm7/B... or Bm7b5b9) brought back to mind a question I asked at a gathering of my worship team last Sunday afternoon: what would you like to see written down to help you?

We've got some people who are very notation orientated - they want the dots (vocal parts / piano part specifically). Others like chord charts, although that's flexible term - I think I might be the only one, at the moment, who'd relish unpacking Bm7b5b9. As we're making more use of software like OnSong, I sometimes find it frustrating when the chords I'm shown are missing the little tweaks and inversions I'm used to using as a guide although I'm also not averse to avoiding or changing chords that don't sound right. We've also got some who don't use any music (yep - the drummers) or tend to play just from a lyrics sheet (an experienced guitarist).

As you can see, that's rather a lot of ground to cover. What do you hand round in your setting to give people a firm foundation for playing the music?


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And a happy Sunday to you, too :-(  I was expecting to read that on Sunday the bass shows up and plays unnecessarily complex lines, off the beat and occasionally a half-step north or south of the rest of the club.

We long ago gave up trying to sound anything like the recording - actually, I don't think we ever tried.  We don't have a keyboard player right now, but if we did I would forbid them from downloading the full score.  (Actually, what we DO have is an unused Hammond M-3 - sort of "mini B-3," but the same sound generation hardware - with a real Leslie speaker, and if somebody wanted to play keyboards, I'd want them to figure out how to play that).

I recall that "leading from behind" discussion, maybe you started it.  Although I am, nominally, the leader of our band, I've found that my role during the actual worship experience ( :-) ) is just to try to figure out what's going off the rails and trying to cover that.

I have found - and it took a while to work this out - that giving people chord charts they could mark up, and then the next time we did that song, they'd still have their markups from before - helped some people "play better."  Are you handing out fresh printouts of the songs each week?

Anyway, you have my sypathies for your general problem...

Whenever I try to share things like this, it comes out rather dark. Just me then?

Anyway, we collect the copies and file them so as not to have stray copies reproducing more copies that we can't then track, when each copy has our CCLI # on it.

One glaring problem with the way we do things is that we don't have a binder of our entire library for each person. We practice the songs for that week - that week. I find myself relearning the same songs over and over again, having partially forgotten details between performances.

Song binders are a headache. When I previously lived in London, we used small folders for most of our music and they required a fair amount of maintenance to keep them usable. Sheets would get worn round the punched holes and drop out, items would get filed in the wrong place or perhaps a new song would only be added to the binders used that day.

Whether trying small regular checks or periodic full revisions, there were always discrepancies particularly on days when blessed with a larger group. That is one of the things that has become easier now that we tend to use a digital system to display the music (well, chord sheets in most cases)... although it does then mean you are at the mercy of which version of a chord sheet a particular leader has in their repository.

I have to confess that I'm as bad as anyone else for creating my own customisations; what I'm trying to do is to make it as easy for the band on the day to see everything they need to remember about a particular song at a glance.


We use Planning Center Online.  The WL usually schedules personnel 90 days out and the charts and songs are generally posted one to two weeks out.  We get chord charts and lyric sheets via PDF from the site (which can also transpose, which is nice), along with a guide recording (usually pitch shifted into the key we will be using) from the original artist and another recording of our group (if we've done a particular song before) and any tutorial links available for a given song.  The expectation is that everybody knows their parts in time for Wednesday night rehearsal, which runs an hour and a half to two hours.  We then run the set, with emphasis on the transitions, on Sunday morning.

After yet another foray into musical theatre, I more than ever want guitar parts written out on the staff in the correct octave. It was nice to be taken seriously as a musician by other musicians. I shudder to think of memorizing the equivalent of 94 eight staff pages of written music by listening to recordings of 28 complex tracks and having it ready for first rehearsal in under 3 weeks.

Well, you could always do the listening and transcribing yourself, and then just hand the 94 pages to your worship leader and say, "this is what I'll be playing.  Let me know if you want any changes."

Honestly, as a WL, I had the (obligatory?) go-round with a pastor who thought we ought to notate and project the melody for the contemporary worship songs we do, and in the end, that was one of the reasons why I quit.  My replacement solved the problem by just ignoring her.

I don't need to be able to sight read fluently until I need to be able to sight read fluently. Unfortunately, being able to sight read fluently when I need to depends greatly upon practicing and maintaining that skill when I don't need to. And the most time I spend with guitar in hand is preparing for Sunday. I'd prefer to do that in front of a music stand rather than with a pair of cans on my head hitting start/stop with my picking hand. Just another indicator that I've become a dinosaur and should step aside, I suppose.

How much music do you need to support playing the average worship song. I think the 94 pages Charles suggests is just a little extreme... and would be wasted if nobody else was following a similar part. However, I feel the pain of trying to recreate some of the songs I'm less familiar with just based on a page of lyrics with chords dotted more or less randomly above them.

Ideal for me would be an easy way to insert notation for key phrases and a chord grid (chords in relation to barlines) in addition to the standard lyric and chord sheet. Probably fewer pages but enough to bring some distinct spice to each song. I say ideal... I have the tools to do that but the main challenge is the time it would take to prepare, even with this less comprehensive approach.


The 94 page book was notation for a musical, an example of when rote from recording would be impractical. 

Example of when I'd like a completely notated part:

When a song has a notated intro for 8 measures involving precisely two different patterns for precisely two chords, then is notated "sim." for the remainder of the chords, when those chords cannot conveniently be played similarly. Is "sim." an abbreviation for "play whatever you want, because we didn't feel like notating the entire thing because, you know, guitarists can't read this anyway and will be memorizing from the recording" ?

Also, doing a song this morning in which the only guitar I hear on the recording is an acoustic playing sort of a muted atonal rhythmic thing and we don't have an acoustic available this morning. I assume it probably was a chord but I only hear the pick thwack and the muted thunk. There's probably electric in there somewhere but if so is tracking the keyboard so closely as to be inseparable on my listening device. I'll be improvising something non-recording-y but vaguely non-inappropriate again. I use non-inappropriate mainly because appropriate sounds intentional and knowledgeable, and it's difficult to assign either word seriously to my contributions. It's more that I'm trying to do something vaguely constructive while staying out of the way. If the guitarist feels like a lost beginner every Sunday then he cannot be perceived as proud and show-offy, right?

As can probably be seen on the news feed, that was my third try at this response and the others didn't age well overnight. I'm leaving this one in spite of deficiencies, but I don't know how else to express it. I suppose there's another equipment investment in my future: earphones ugly enough so no one else wants to borrow them.


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