One of the best ways to improve the musical quality of your worship band is by providing your team with the best possible resources to practice on their own. The most important resources for your band are accurate chord charts and mp3 files. If you use Planning Center to plan your worship services, I want to show you how the best way to prepare these resources is by creating chord charts within Planning Center’s lyrics and chord editor rather than attaching pdf’s or other chord chart files you found somewhere else on the internet. I’ll also show you how to host mp3 files of songs and make sure they are transposed to the same key as what your band will be playing.
In this walkthrough, I am going to show you how I created the chord charts and mp3 files for the song “What a Beautiful Name” by Hillsong Worship. If you’re church is not singing this song yet, then you can use this opportunity to add the charts of this song to your Planning Center library.
How to prepare chord charts in Planning Center
Let’s begin with preparing the chord chart. The first step is to acquire the ChordPro version of the chord charts or write your ChordPro version if you have the time and musical capability to do so. I have another article and video here. Websites like WorshipTogether.com are great because have done the work for you and have created a ChordPro version of all of Hillsong’s music. Navigate to the song “What a Beautiful Name” on their website, click on “free ChordPro download” button, open the txt file, and copy the chord pro text provided for you. Worship Together also can automatically import the song into Planning Center.
Next, go to your songs library in Planning Center, and add a new song, making sure the CCLI information matches with the correct song. In this example, we are going to edit the default arrangement of “What a Beautiful Name”.
Click on the lyrics and chord editor. This is one of my favorite tools in Planning Center. By using their native app to create chord charts, managing the songs in your library will be much easier. You will be able to produce charts in different keys and different arrangements in minutes, which saves you and your team a lot of time.
Paste the text, you copied from the ChordPro chart into the lyrics and chord editor. Make sure you indicate in Planning Center the original key of the song. Next, make a few changes to the format of the chord charts. Create two columns and change the font to Arial/Helvetica. I prefer these settings because it allows me to fit everything on one page.
Next, edit the ChordPro chords, so they are 100% accurate to your arrangement. In this case, we are going to play it just like the recording. For instrumentals, I like to use lines and dots. You can create these dots by pressing option + 8 on a Mac. I also do not repeat the lyrics and chords for a section of the song that repeats. Instead, I write how many times that section repeat and if it shows up again later in the song, the band member will see which part they are supposed to play and how many times. My goal is to make it so all they need to do is follow the roadmap down the two columns. Finally, I will also create the song sequence, which gives the band a quick reference for the song order.
Once the charts are ready, I will exit the editor and then make sure it is the proper key. In this case, I want a version of the song in D for a female lead and another version in the key of E for a male lead. Since it is so easy to do and takes less than a second, I will also add a capo version for my acoustic guitarist who doesn’t know how to play anything other than the key of G or C.
That completes the process of preparing chord charts for the song.
How to prepare mp3 files
Next, we are going to upload mp3 files to the song so our band can play along with Hillsong Worship as they practice. I have purchased this song on iTunes, but first I want to make a mp3 version of the song, so it is in a smaller file format that is easier to stream. Make sure your CD import settings in iTunes have mp3 selected. Then select the song in your library, and then select File/Convert/Mp3. In a few seconds, iTunes will create the mp3 version of the song. Drag that mp3 file onto your desktop, and now it’s ready to upload to Planning Center.
In the song editor on Planning Center, upload the mp3 to the proper key version of the song. In this case, I am going to drag the song onto the key of D, and within a few seconds, it will be uploaded and ready for your musicians to stream. Make sure you are setup with the proper CCLI licensing for them to do so legally.
What if your band needs to practice the song in the key of E? Planning Center has a solution for that. Hover your cursor over the original song file and click the musical note which is the transpose button. In this window, input the correct information to transpose the song to the key you would like. I am going to make sure the “from” key is D, and the “to” key is E since we want to transpose from the original female lead key of D to the male lead key of E. When it’s ready, click the transpose button and in a few minutes the transposed file will appear in the proper key.
Since I like to run a click and backing tracks with my band using Ableton Live, I will export a master from the song’s Ableton session that includes the click, cues, and the original mp3 at a low volume. I find this is the best way for the band members to prepare because they will be able to hear the click and cues we will use on the weekend.
Once the charts are created, and mp3 files are uploaded and transposed, the song is ready to be used in a plan. In the plan I’m going to add a song, select the one I just created, making sure it’s in the proper arrangement and key, and then I’ll check to make sure all of the attachments are displaying properly.
To practice with the right chord charts and mp3 files, my musicians simply download the chord chart book for the week and open up Planning Center’s media player, and they are ready to rock.
I hope you found this article helpful for your ministry and it gives you a few ideas to make your worship planning workflow more efficient. Share your love and opinions in the comments below and share this with other worship leaders if you think it can help their ministry as well.