On Monday, I re-posted my updated version of cuing fast songs. Today we’ll get to slow songs. As I reviewed the original post from 3 years ago, I decided that my cues should happen earlier than they did. So in the good examples, I’ve re-positioned the cues to where I think they should go now. I’ve also tweaked the measure counting to make it easier to follow.
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.