Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Presentation Cuing–Fast 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.

Next time around, we’ll tackle an approach to a slower song, and learn how to cue slides in a musical and seamless manner.

19 Comments

  1. jason@thegrovechurch.org

    great post.. we talk about this almost every week with our slide operators. thanks for you site.

  2. jason@thegrovechurch.org

    great post.. we talk about this almost every week with our slide operators. thanks for you site.

  3. travismaclay@gmail.com

    Hey, great blog entry! This post is very much needed in today’s churches!

    I am glad you explained & differentiated on fast vs. slow songs & where the transition point needs to take place. I have seen people set hard & fast rules on where to transition (last line, 3 words from end, etc). Unfortunately, this rule doesn’t always work – especially on a slow worship tune with 8 bars of instruments before lyrics come back in.

    I would add just one thought to expound & take your argument a step further. We must also consider whether the song is being introduced & is new to the congregation or if it is fairly familiar. On a faster tune that is relatively new, I ask our team to stay a beat ahead of where they normally would transition.

    Because I wasn’t familiar with the Crowder tune you played (okay, maybe I should be), I found myself following along lost as could be on the first, but even still a bit behind on the others. Although I’m prepared to scan back to the top to be fed words that I really don’t know, it’s still not much time before we’re off & running again. Hear me out, I’m not talking seconds earlier, just maybe 1 second on a fast tune. Had the tempo been 60% of this, your timing would have been great for me.

    Just something to consider: familiarity & tempo when considering transition rates.

    Thanks for your work. Great info as always.

  4. travismaclay@gmail.com

    Hey, great blog entry! This post is very much needed in today’s churches!

    I am glad you explained & differentiated on fast vs. slow songs & where the transition point needs to take place. I have seen people set hard & fast rules on where to transition (last line, 3 words from end, etc). Unfortunately, this rule doesn’t always work – especially on a slow worship tune with 8 bars of instruments before lyrics come back in.

    I would add just one thought to expound & take your argument a step further. We must also consider whether the song is being introduced & is new to the congregation or if it is fairly familiar. On a faster tune that is relatively new, I ask our team to stay a beat ahead of where they normally would transition.

    Because I wasn’t familiar with the Crowder tune you played (okay, maybe I should be), I found myself following along lost as could be on the first, but even still a bit behind on the others. Although I’m prepared to scan back to the top to be fed words that I really don’t know, it’s still not much time before we’re off & running again. Hear me out, I’m not talking seconds earlier, just maybe 1 second on a fast tune. Had the tempo been 60% of this, your timing would have been great for me.

    Just something to consider: familiarity & tempo when considering transition rates.

    Thanks for your work. Great info as always.

  5. andrew.wolfe@me.com

    This is great to point out. I need to show this post to one of the other volunteers in our youth groups media team. I taught him MediaShout but the biggest problem he has is still not getting the stanzas up quick enough. Drives me bonkers!

    The other thing I try to get him to do is go with a blank screen (i.e. just the background, if applicable) during long instrumental breaks. I’m sure you’ll cover some of this in the next post.

    When done correctly, this stuff all fades away and people can actually worship…which is the whole point!

  6. andrew.wolfe@me.com

    This is great to point out. I need to show this post to one of the other volunteers in our youth groups media team. I taught him MediaShout but the biggest problem he has is still not getting the stanzas up quick enough. Drives me bonkers!

    The other thing I try to get him to do is go with a blank screen (i.e. just the background, if applicable) during long instrumental breaks. I’m sure you’ll cover some of this in the next post.

    When done correctly, this stuff all fades away and people can actually worship…which is the whole point!

  7. zachboehm@gmail.com

    Right on. I hate it when you can’t sing the first lines of songs. Transitions are kind of like of like the rule my football coach enforced: If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. And if you’re late, you’re in trouble.

    One other trick I liked to use was to use soft wipe from top left to bottom right for the transition. This allows the words you need last to stay on the screen the longest, and the words you need first to appear quickly. With this transition I would often try to switch during the middle of the last line.

  8. zachboehm@gmail.com

    Right on. I hate it when you can’t sing the first lines of songs. Transitions are kind of like of like the rule my football coach enforced: If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. And if you’re late, you’re in trouble.

    One other trick I liked to use was to use soft wipe from top left to bottom right for the transition. This allows the words you need last to stay on the screen the longest, and the words you need first to appear quickly. With this transition I would often try to switch during the middle of the last line.

  9. jko.mediaguy@gmail.com

    I sse the top left to bottom right fade, as well and I like it a lot.

    For faster moving songs, we don’t change the speed of the fade, but we do change slides as many as 3 words before the end of the slide.

    As you said, by that time, the congregation already has those words in thier heads and are looking for the next line.

  10. jko.mediaguy@gmail.com

    I sse the top left to bottom right fade, as well and I like it a lot.

    For faster moving songs, we don’t change the speed of the fade, but we do change slides as many as 3 words before the end of the slide.

    As you said, by that time, the congregation already has those words in thier heads and are looking for the next line.

  11. clavejones@gmail.com

    There is really no reason for any dissolve. Texts slides flow well with a straight cut. Save the dissolve for your motion backgrounds.

  12. clavejones@gmail.com

    There is really no reason for any dissolve. Texts slides flow well with a straight cut. Save the dissolve for your motion backgrounds.

  13. red79vette@sbcglobal.net

    Very useful post. The examples help a lot.

  14. red79vette@sbcglobal.net

    Very useful post. The examples help a lot.

  15. bj@fbctrussville.org

    Great post. Keep it up. God Bless!

  16. bj@fbctrussville.org

    Great post. Keep it up. God Bless!

  17. tylermckellar@gmail.com

    Great post. As a rather small church we don’t fuss over it too much. I am starting to run into an issue with one of my team mozying as slowly as possible. I’ve been figuring out to tackle this along with several other hangups we’ve been having with our projection and I think this article will be an excellent example.

  18. tylermckellar@gmail.com

    Great post. As a rather small church we don’t fuss over it too much. I am starting to run into an issue with one of my team mozying as slowly as possible. I’ve been figuring out to tackle this along with several other hangups we’ve been having with our projection and I think this article will be an excellent example.

  19. Lyric Slide Timing « Ran

    […] A friend of mine put up some videos with examples on his blog a while ago to demonstrate the importance of slide timing. Check them out. Church Tech Arts » Presentation Cuing–Fast Songs. […]

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