Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Know Thy Music

Someday I’m going to do a post entitled “The 10 Commandments for Presentation Techs.” Know Thy Music will be number 4 or 5 (I haven’t decided yet). On one level, it seems obvious. However, I have worked with people in the past who don’t know the songs they are presenting for, and it shows. Then again, I’ve worked with some (more recently) that really do know the music, and again, it shows.

A few weeks ago I did a few examples of when to to change slides on fast songs and slow songs. While I tried to provide some guidance for when the changes should take place, the truth is that it’s quite dependent on how the song is played. Really good presentation techs will drop changes between phrases so naturally people don’t even notice that the words change–they just keep right on singing. Doing that requires a great familiarity with the music.

I had to run ProPresenter few months ago because the guy who was scheduled didn’t show up. This was back in our old building and I was also TD’ing the service and switching video. However, because I knew the songs really well I was able to grab my Apple Remote and cue the slides, often without looking at the iMac’s screen. I say that not to brag, but to point out that when you know the songs, and you know the presentation, you can get really good at presenting.

So how do you get to know the songs? A great way is to listen to them in advance. One thing I was looking forward to at Upper Room was being able to include the tech team in on the worship song distribution list. With our new church management software, we can post MP3 files for the band and tech team to listen to. Spending some time during the week with the music will help you listen for natural breaks and cueing points for slide changes. While we have to be careful with copyright issues (and there are ways to accomplish this legally), giving the tech team the ability to listen in advance is a great idea.

Another way is to really pay attention during the band rehearsal. We have tried to schedule our presentation tech’s time in such a way that they can follow along in ProPresenter during the band’s rehearsal time. The impetus for this schedule is to catch variations in our slides that need correcting. However, it’s another great opportunity to learn the music and fine tune your cuing. A lot of techs I know will just follow along, only double checking lyrics. I suggest it’s a better use of your time to practice your cuing.

Also, if you get copies of the charts (and you should) it doesn’t hurt to look over them and make note of the phrasing and breaks that the songs contain. Again, we’re looking for ways to make the song more singable by the congregation. The more familiar you are as a presentation operator, the more you can do that.

So there’s commandment 4 (or 5). Now I need to work on the other 9…

8 Comments

  1. ron.tuffin@gmail.com

    This is a big one for me. Except I mess up because I know the music too well πŸ™‚ (I forget to cue the slides cause I tend to sing along to the exclusion of the Mac in front of me)

    I wrote some presentation software that our church used for a while (before we could afford ProPresenter). So for a long time I was perceived as the expert. I have not ‘done slides’ for ages and have to man the Mac on Sunday. After years of people asking me “was that ok” after they ran the slides for a service, now I have to live up to expectations. Scary.

  2. ron.tuffin@gmail.com

    This is a big one for me. Except I mess up because I know the music too well πŸ™‚ (I forget to cue the slides cause I tend to sing along to the exclusion of the Mac in front of me)

    I wrote some presentation software that our church used for a while (before we could afford ProPresenter). So for a long time I was perceived as the expert. I have not ‘done slides’ for ages and have to man the Mac on Sunday. After years of people asking me “was that ok” after they ran the slides for a service, now I have to live up to expectations. Scary.

  3. ben@benwardmusic.com

    Great insight! I would take it a step further and say this also applies to the way the lyrics are phrased on the slides. They need to mirror the natural phrases of singing, not just what looks good (it’s best if it can be both). It helps if the designer/pres. tech and the worship leader can go over them together beforehand so they can sync up.

  4. ben@benwardmusic.com

    Great insight! I would take it a step further and say this also applies to the way the lyrics are phrased on the slides. They need to mirror the natural phrases of singing, not just what looks good (it’s best if it can be both). It helps if the designer/pres. tech and the worship leader can go over them together beforehand so they can sync up.

  5. jrygel@hotmail.com

    Same commandment should apply to light and sound techs as well, except maybe it should be 2nd or 3rd, behind “know thy equipment” and “know thy worship leader” . . .

  6. jrygel@hotmail.com

    Same commandment should apply to light and sound techs as well, except maybe it should be 2nd or 3rd, behind “know thy equipment” and “know thy worship leader” . . .

  7. marcus@burge.com

    I had a worship leader one time that would go through every rehearsal and play the song directly to the studio or live cut that I’d been listening to. The cues would be right on, and I always switch before the phrase comes up in the song. During the worship service I’d be moving right along running propresenter, audio and lights, and wait, what’s that, I’ve hit the first phrase of verse 2 but he’s repeating the chorus again! The first time this happened I just thought he made a mistake and I got on the right slide within a beat, but the second time I asked the WL. His response was that he never really knows how he’s gonna sing the song. It’s different every time from rehearsal to show, and not even the band knows where he’s going (it shows when they gave him funny looks every time and were playing a different part of the song.

    This the same WL that sometimes told me that they really weren’t sure what songs they were going to play tonight, just throw the song up once they start singing. Lucky I can pick most out by the music being played and the tempo, but on one they started off playing one song and started singing words to another, causing the band to correct itself into the right rhythm into the new song. That was rough.

  8. marcus@burge.com

    I had a worship leader one time that would go through every rehearsal and play the song directly to the studio or live cut that I’d been listening to. The cues would be right on, and I always switch before the phrase comes up in the song. During the worship service I’d be moving right along running propresenter, audio and lights, and wait, what’s that, I’ve hit the first phrase of verse 2 but he’s repeating the chorus again! The first time this happened I just thought he made a mistake and I got on the right slide within a beat, but the second time I asked the WL. His response was that he never really knows how he’s gonna sing the song. It’s different every time from rehearsal to show, and not even the band knows where he’s going (it shows when they gave him funny looks every time and were playing a different part of the song.

    This the same WL that sometimes told me that they really weren’t sure what songs they were going to play tonight, just throw the song up once they start singing. Lucky I can pick most out by the music being played and the tempo, but on one they started off playing one song and started singing words to another, causing the band to correct itself into the right rhythm into the new song. That was rough.

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