A user’s perspective: Working in the background

Today’s guest blog comes from long-time user of Power Music Alun McCarthy. Alun leads worship at St Peter’s Shared Church in Guildford and has been previously featured in this blog as a featured musician. Here, Alun shares some tips and tricks he’s learned using Power Music:

As a musician and worship leader, what I’m doing is far more important than how I’m doing it. If a congregation is distracted by the machinery of the music group this can defeat the purpose of a service. I’ve found several ways of using technology and software (Power Music) that help me to achieve a flow of worship without being noticeable to a congregation.

There may be a time that I’ll want to refer to a particular aspect of a sermon in a worship set. Having the ability to search out a word or phrase, either in a title of a song or the whole lyric, is really useful for this. Many songbooks provide indexed categories, which are useful, but only provide a reference to a song title. Being able to dig deeper into the lyric brings a whole new dynamic to selecting a song “on the fly”.

Another advantage of searching for a song electronically is that it’s silent – no rustling pages, which is often a distraction for the person delivering the sermon as well as for the congregation.

Effective communication is also essential; if the rest of the group and the lyric projection team don’t know where you’re going then the moment will be lost. This is where I would use a “moment of reflection”, often referring to the first line of the song – which gives the tech desk time to sort the projection out. Those moments also allow the congregation time to turn to worship as well.

Sometimes, background working isn’t all about the dynamics of leading. There are occasions when a service is more reflective and may have a lower lighting arrangement, such as a Cristingle Service or an evening Remembrance Service. On these occasions it’s definitely an advantage to be able to read chord charts from a screen, however a distraction may be the white glow that the laptop gives out. For these occasions I change the settings in Power Music so the background is black and the text is white. This cuts down the glow nicely.

Setting a black background is also useful if you don’t have a projection team. I’ve run a laptop out to an lcd screen, duplicating the display and setting a black background with yellow lyrics and a brown/red chord line. As long as you explain to the congregation what’s going on it’s surprising how quickly they focus only on the parts of the display they need to.

Always make sure your laptop is firmly attached to a stand, preferably a specific laptop stand. There’s nothing worse than leading a praise worship song and ending up with a laptop on the floor. This is all the more important when the song involves children and flags!

Finally, it’s really important that you keep your laptop plugged into the mains when using it to lead worship. There is nothing more distracting for a worship leader that to be on the second verse of a good old hymn than to have the “low battery” warning pop up. The two thoughts that cross your mind in very quick succession are: “how do I press “OK” to close that dialogue box?” and “how do I stop playing and plug the mains lead in without anyone noticing?”

2 thoughts on “A user’s perspective: Working in the background

  1. Thanks for the practical tips. That bit about the laptop, children, and flags sounds like a lesson learned the hard way!

  2. I enjoyed reading the practical experience tips. Well done! Very useful feedback on the screen background, I too have generated that erie white glow during a low light prayer concert ?
    Here at Christ Church in Chesham (Bucks) a couple of us in the band use iPads with Power Music. One great advantage is that with an appropriate accessory, the iPad is clipped to the microphone stand and song pages (chord sheets) are simply paged through using a bluetooth footswitch. We can also share a single footswitch so that we are all ‘on the same page” ?The other significant advantage of an iPad is that being battery operated there is usually no power problem, and in longer services, during the sermon etc, an iPad automatically goes into sleep mode thus conserving power.

    But … I am not all Apple! Here are a few reasons why I like the Windows based Power Music so much.
    When I am leading a service I do prefer to use my Windows PC based system because of the Windows Power Music ability to save effective “Post it” notes on the screen. It’s very useful to have these cryptic notes appear with the song. I haven’t yet figured out how to replicate these ‘on screen notes” on an iPad, though to be fair the available screen is limited and it is a tough enough challenge reading small type face on an iPad.
    There are so many useful features in the windows version of Power Music; one I particularly like, and use, is the chord library for the more obscure chords when a quick graphic pasted onto the screen prior to service can be really effective.

    Sometimes just recalling the right tempo For a song is a challenge, it is just so easy to start a song at too quick a tempo so another feature that I use, especially when we have no drummer, is the onscreen silent metronome that gives a visual indication of the tempo.

    So those were my top tips … it would be great to learn of other ways that PM helps to deliver an effective service.

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