Worship With Limited Musician Resources
Finding the right tools for WORSHIP with limited MUSICIAN resources
Churches with limited musician resources seem to be occurring in epidemic proportions. Also, many churches want to be able to utilize modern worship songs in their times of worship, but find it difficult to do so without proper instrumentation. Today, we have technologies available that provide great solutions for churches that need help. In this series of posts, I talk about many great solutions for churches of all worship styles–whether you need just a pianist or an entire band to assist in your times of corporate worship. This page outlines many solutions with links to more thorough summaries of these technologies. These summaries have links and demos of many of the products to help you determine which solution is best for you.
There is hope for churches experiencing a shortage of needed musicians. Read on!
Pianist and/or Organist-Led Worship Technology Solutions
The Hymnal Project: Instrumental Piano Hymns on CD
The Hymn Project provides a perfect ‘just in case’ solution for those situations and is easy to put to use regardless of the technical capabilities of a church. If someone can use a CD player, they can use The Hymn Project. Each CD has a variety of hymns that cover different subjects, tempos, and keys, providing the capability for a wide range of song services from just one CD! Multiply that across the seven CDs that make up the two-CD sets and you have a vast selection of hymns for any occasion. 150 hymns on 5 CDs – $79. 50 Hymns on 2 CDs – $29. Both sets: $99. 15% discount available.
The Hymnal Project CDs are perfect for churches that no longer have a church pianist or need a temporary “substitute” for a few weeks. They are extremely well produced and work wonderfully in church worship. I would probably rip the CDs and use the mp3s in an audio player app for convenience, but if you do not play two hymns close together in your service, the CDs will serve you well.
SingHymns.Net Products Are a Great Resource for Hymn Accompaniment
As longtime church accompanists, the SingHymns staff has made recordings of solo piano, solo organ and piano with organ together as ‘played right from the hymnal’ accompaniment so that churches who don’t have someone to play can still sing hymns with accompaniment on tuned instruments. You can choose CDs, MP3 downloads or a thumb drive that loaded with hymns and sent to you. Simply play the audio for the hymns at the right times in your services and your congregation will be encouraged to sing along. You can purchase the media on CDs ($14 each or set of 4 for $48), USB drive ($14 each or set of 4 for $48) or downloads ($12 each or $40 for a set of 4). $5 per order discount available.
SingHymns offers an abundance of well-produced resources for the church in need of congregational accompaniment. You have the option of piano, organ, or a combination of the two for hymn accompaniment. Whether you are without an accompanist long term or just need a fill-in occasionally, SingHymns has a solution for you. I would personally purchase the downloads and use them in an audio player application. Many will find the CDs or the physical USB stick with mp3s more useful. Be careful which key you use for your congregation. It seems the low keys are not, for the most part, best for general congregational singing, but it may work well for accompaniment for a solo or ensemble.
SmallChurchMusic.Com Offers Free Music Resources for Congregational and Small Group Singing
SmallChurchMusic.com offers over 15,000 public domain (no copyright) audio files that can be downloaded freely. Most of the 2008 Baptist Hymnal is on this website but each song and style (organ, piano, small band, etc.) must be downloaded individually and some songs only have a copyrighted organ accompaniment for purchase and download. Any songs that are recorded and copyrighted may be downloaded for $.50 per song.
I am amazed at the number of resources AT NO COST to the church that can assist in accompanying worship services. This resource certainly could use an easier and more pleasant interface, but there is an amazing storehouse of resources here. It will take more time to find and review all the choices to determine what works best for your church, but if you are on a tight budget, this is certainly a great consideration.
UMC Offers Hundreds of Free Piano Accompaniment Recordings of Hymns
The United Methodist Church has done a great job of providing hundreds of hymn accompaniment mp3s for their hymnals. You will find that we share hundreds of hymns in common. These piano accompaniments of familiar hymns are provided as free downloads. They are intended to provide accompaniments for congregational singing for churches unable to provide accompaniment for singing. The UMC hymn project offers another great resource for FREE piano hymn accompaniment for congregational singing. I found a number of the songs to be rather slow, but that can be remedied with Audacity or other audio software that can adjust the tempo of the song. If you are needing piano accompaniment for congregational singing on a long-term or short-term basis and are on a tight budget, this resource, along with SmallChurchMusic.com, will provide numerous options for you.
Additional Classic Hymn Accompaniment Resources
Classic Hymn Collections
Three volumes of Classic Hymns can be found on Amazon.com. Each collection contains 15-18 hymns with piano accompaniment and costs $7.99. You can also download the mp3s at a cost of $.89 each from the product pages on Amazon.com.
A large number of piano & organ tracks for hymn accompaniment and service music are available for download from www.HymnCDs.com. While the majority of the hymns are not of the Baptist tradition, you may find some great selections to use for other service music as well as weddings and funerals. HymnCDs.com has amazing quality organ hymn accompaniment. The collection specific to the Baptist Tradition and their wedding collections may serve you best if you are looking for great organ accompaniment to add to your mp3 collection. 5-15% discount available. Pricing varies by product.
There are a number of YouTube videos that have hymn accompaniment with lyrics. Several of these are of poor quality, but a number of them are adequate for congregational singing. Look through these and see which might be appropriate for your setting. There are two playlists linked on the page klamm.us/piano5. The YouTube playlists may be great for small group gatherings. They also provide an all-in-one solution if you want to display lyrics on a screen while singing with an accompaniment track. The quality of many of these products is questionable.
Band-Led Worship Technology Solutions - MP3s
The options in this section primarily focus on stereo or split track mp3s with band accompaniment for congregational singing. There is an option for lyric video files with the same audio characteristics. In addition, LifeWayWorship has numerous additional products to assist your worship ministry.
Worship Lyric Videos and mp3s from iSingWorship
iSingWorship offers videos and audio files. The videos are self-contained solutions for leading congregational singing. You can purchase the video with or without a lead singer and use the video file in most any presentation software your church is using. The audio tracks supply band-led tracks of hymns and modern worship songs and are in congregationally friendly keys. Videos are $2.99 with static background and $3.99 with motion background. Tracks are only $.99 each. See the webpage referenced above for special packages at discount prices.
LifeWayWorship.com is an incredible online source for worship resources. Audio and print materials are available for every hymn in the Baptist Hymnal plus most every contemporary worship song being sung by churches throughout the world. Music is purchased a la carte—you only buy just what you need. LWW also has all traditional hymns with orchestra accompaniment tracks.
Regular Price: Backing tracks are $2.09. Listening demos are $1.09. Sheet music is $1.49-$1.59 per instrumental part. Singer’s edition is $0.39. Get a 30-70% discount with a prepay plan!
HymnCharts specializes in contemporary hymn arrangements for the church. In addition to the great charts, they also have mp3s and multitracks to use with their arrangements when you do not have adequate resources. HymnCharts is a subscription based service with yearly costs $99.99 – $299.99 depending upon what products you want. Multitracks cost an additional $100 per year.
Apps to Help in Leading Worship With MP3s
Audacity is free PC/Mac software that can be used to manipulate audio files. Tracks may be edited and combined to create medleys for use in worship. Get the free Audacity eBook tutorial here.
Worship Team Director
Free iOS application designed for worship teams who want to create song lists of audio or video files and play them back with artistic control moving from song to song, skipping songs, or ending early, all with smooth, faded transitions that keep a great flow. [See also SoundCue and ShowOne iOS apps (modest cost).] More information
Band-Led Worship Technology Solutions – Virtual Worship Bands
The following options move beyond basic tracks that have the entire band with predetermined sequencing of verses, choruses, bridges, etc. With these options, depending on the app, you are able to mute specific instruments, change the tempo and key, repeat or jump to another section in live worship and much more. These solutions work best when you have live instrumentalists that need augmenting with additional instruments.
iSingWorship is available in iOS, Mac or Windows and will provide you with great sounding music from top producers and musicians in congregationally-friendly keys. It will also automatically display the lyrics accurately in perfect sync (no need for other display software) and, most importantly, allow for highly flexible control of the music. You can even display the chords with the lyrics on screen to use if you play along.
Price: Application is free. Tracks are $2.99 each. See link referenced above for special pricing on a package of songs.
Worship Band in Hand is a mobile app for iOS (iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch). It provides church and worship leaders with a backing band that can be tailored to their needs. It’s a whole worship band that fits in your hand!
Price: Application is free. Songs vary in price by title: single songs $9.99 or $19.99. Import your own songs for $6.99/month. Stand alone click track for $1.99. Sync playback & share setlists $9.99/month.
Worship Backing Band MultiTrack Pro Wav Player is a simple and great value solution for churches that want to play modern worship songs but don’t have a full band. The application is an extremely simple to use Mac & PC downloadable software player with Musicademy’s custom backing tracks that let you choose any combination of instruments to appear in the mix. This will work on a PC, Mac and iOS.
Price: $49.99 for the browser-based software. $19.99 for iPad app. Tracks are $17.00 each. Quantity discounts are available to $10.00 per song.
Fly is designed to help facilitate worship in small churches or other settings where there is a shortage of musicians. Technically, it is a software application combined with audio tracks, controlled by a foot pedal. The “on the fly” features are what makes Fly so incredible for worship.
Price: Fly comes with a monthly subscription beginning at $14.99/month. This includes unlimited use of their vast library of songs.
WorshipSong Band is a free app for iOS. Mac and PC that will play multitracks from any source. It has the ability to map the songs as the previous options to jump to or repeat sections on the fly. It also sends video to a second screen for congregational singing and displays chord charts. Everyone on your team can coordinate the chord charts by connecting wirelessly. Lots of great features at no cost!
Price: The app is free. You may purchase or create your own multitracks. There are many great sources for multitracks to use in this player.
Multitrack (STEMS) Sources and Tools
The previous virtual band options are, for the most part, self-contained solutions, with the exception of WorshipSong Band that relies heavily on outside sources for their multitracks. We will now explore some additional options for players and sources of multitracks.
DAW is an application software (or electronic device) that us used for recording, editing and producing audio files. Some of them work well in live worship situations. You can use DAWs like GarageBand or Audacity in worship, but they are not the friendliest applications for live situations. The most popular is Ableton Live ($449) that can also control your video and lighting with cues connected to the music files.
The Prime App is another multitrack player for iOS that works well with Loop Community’s multitracks and others that you import into the app. The app is free and Loop Community provides cloud space for your personal tracks at no cost.
Many of these sources have songs in keys not appropriate for congregational singing. Merely transposing the song, if not a minor change, may not produce a great sounding result. Click on the link below for an extensive list of sources.
Quick Links to Specific Posts
I have reviewed a great number of solutions for churches with limited musician resources. Whether you just need a sub for a pianist that will be out one week or need a band to accompany your church’s worship, there is a resource here that will meet your needs.
The virtual worship band option is just right for many churches wishing to fill in for missing instrumentalists or provide the entire band when not available. Many of these have their own tracks for purchase that work seamlessly with their players. Some of them allow you to utilize tracks from outside sources as well.