worship production

OnSong vs. Music Stand | Which app is best for worship bands?

There are a ton of digital chord charts for you to choose from, but the OnSong and Music Stand apps are the two best options for worship leaders. In this article, I'll weigh some of the pros and cons of using each one so that you can make the best decision for your ministry team. 

Music Stand

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The Music Stand app is an add-on to your Planning Center Services subscription which makes it really easy to stay in their ecosystem.

I've been using them for a very long time to:

  • Plan out my worship gatherings every single weekend

  • Schedule musicians

  • Resource my musicians with charts as well as MP3 files

  • Build out my song library

Music Stand Features

  1. Sync with Planning Center

    Since this app was developed with Planning Center, it automatically syncs with your Planning Center account. You'll be able to view your weekly set list, plans and click on a song to pull up the chord charts. 

2. Play MP3 files while using your digital chord chart

In Planning Center, you can link the MP3 file of the song to the chord chart and play it while you go through, and it’s a great way for your other musicians to practice the songs at home. 

3. Annotate songs 

There are lots of great annotation features built into this app. 

  • Highlight sections of the song with different colors

  • Jot down notes 

  • Save all your annotations and access them whenever

Pricing 

Planning Center is a subscription-based software and you can select the plans and services that fits your church.

I’ve included some of the pricing breakdowns below:

  • Free: If you only have five members, then this will work for you.

  • Just Music Stand App: $5 a month. 

  • Planning Center + Music Stand: $16

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There are a lot of similarities between OnSong and Music Stand, but I think OnSong has an edge over Music Stand because creating a chord chart is its main thing. Not just an add-on feature.

Features

  1. Organize your songs

    You can get to a greater level of organizing your song assets by arranging them into sets and books.

  2. Import set lists

    If you create a grouping of songs on Planning Center, you can sync it with OnSong.

    Select Planning Center > Select what service I want > Import > Update

  3. Reformat your chord chart for easy readability

    This is where I think OnSong starts to shine brighter than Music Stand. You can turn the font size and brightness, bold the chords and change the text color.

  4. Send messages to your band through the app

    It also has a really strong communication feature for talking to the rest of your band members. If you’re on the same wifi network, you can send them commands like “Start” and “Stop.” I think this is a great way to communicate with them in the middle of a service.

5. Add midi functions 

OnSong has some cool features when it comes to being able to use midi communication to change the song that you're seeing in your app. Using Ableton Live, you could put a midi queue at the beginning of each song that then maps to the appropriate song within OnSong. 

  • Musicians would never have to touch their iPad throughout worship 

  • The app would automatically flip to the right song

  • You could even get it to scroll to the right section of a song.  

This is a really powerful feature, and I think it gets a little crazy. Personally, I think that instead of setting up the midi automation, you could just memorize the chords and lyrics to your music. 

Recap

At the end of the day, both are great apps..

  • If you’re just looking for a simple cord chart, go with Music Stand (like I do)

  • If you’re interested in an app with more technical capabilities, try out Onstage. 

If you need some more training for how to use apps like Planning Center, how to prepare chord charts and other practice resources for your worship ministry, then check out Worship Leader School. 

We've got a large set of online courses library to teach you:

✅How to create efficient systems and processes

✅How to resource your band well

✅How to improve in your pastoral responsibilities

✅You’ll even get access to my team for real time support and coaching

We have the resources, classes and community to help you reach your fullest potential as a worship leader. So check out Worship Leader School so you can grow yourself and your ministry. 

How to make a small worship band sound big

How to make a small worship band sound big

On most Sundays, my worship band consists of only four members. I sing and play acoustic. My assistant worship leader is on vocals, and we have a keyboardist and drummer. No bassist. No electric guitars. No background vocals. Even with a small ensemble, we manage to achieve a big sound in worship. In this article, I’ll tell you all about how we do it and watch to the end because I tell you about my #1 software recommendation for achieving a full sound in worship.

How to setup worship and production gear at a church plant

I’m a worship leader at a church plant. Every Sunday I wake up at 5 AM, shower, get dressed, head to my office where I pick up my gear, grab McDonald's breakfast, and make the 20-minute drive to Green Mountain High School where Mission Lakewood gathers for Sunday Worship. There’s a lot of work that happens between 7 AM and 9:30 AM to set up our worship space. I’ll walk you through it all in this article.

One of the best parts of planting a church is you get to start from scratch. In all aspects of ministry, you have the opportunity to build everything from the ground up. No existing traditions, systems, equipment, and the headaches that come along with them. I’m an entrepreneur. The challenge of starting things from scratch energizes me. That is why I was pumped to join Mission Lakewood as the worship pastor.

One of the worst parts of planting a church is you start from scratch. You have no building or existing equipment to use for worship. All of it has to be set up and torn down.

Every...single...week.

My friend Kevin was in charge of selecting and purchasing the production gear for our church plant. When he sent along the gear list for Mission Lakewood, I could not wait to get my hands on it and start using it every Sunday. I geek out over this stuff, and I’m super fussy about using gear that is high quality (but not overpriced) and creating efficient systems for setup and teardown.

We are a month into our church plant, and I couldn’t be happier with where we are at with our set up process. Last Sunday, setup took only an hour and a half, which allows our worship band a full hour to run through and tidy up our five song set list. The first few weeks were not easy. One Sunday we had so many production issues to troubleshoot that we only had about 15 minutes to rehearse our music. Barely enough time to run the whole set.

I thought it would be fun to walk you through exactly what a Sunday morning looks like at Mission Lakewood before the worship service begins. Our production gear would work great for anyone considering a church plant or leading worship at a church plant. To access a document containing links and pricing to all of the gear I’m about to cover, download the worship toolkit.

I will break the remainder of this article into the various steps of set up for worship and production at our church plant.

Step 1 - Scope out the auditorium and make sure there are no obstructions.

We meet at a high school. We do not always know what the auditorium will look like upon arrival because the theater department also uses the space for their musicals and plays. So far, they have done a fantastic job at keeping the central part of the stage clear. They have background set piece for the musical, The Adam’s Family, but once our trusses and screen are up, you cannot tell it’s there.

When I arrive at the school, I scope out the sides of the stage to ensure there aren’t other random set pieces in the way of where we need to move in our flight cases containing gear. It is a small detail, but half the battle of setup is making sure you don’t make the process harder for yourself. We want to have our cases in the same spot with space around them every week, so we have easy and quick access to it.

Step 2 - Roll out the carpet

Our stage has a shiny wood floor. I have no clue what they thought when they designed it that way. Reflective, light-colored floors are horrible for stages. When in doubt, pain your stage floor matte black. Since we cannot paint the floor, we purchased a large but inexpensive, dark-colored carpet. It drastically helps reduce the amount of light pollution on stage and makes it look sharp.

Step 3 - Assemble the wide-screen

The prominent feature of our stage design is the widescreen. We chose to go with a widescreen for many reasons. We wanted an efficient way to project lyrics on one screen. That meant it needed to be in the center and behind the band. We also wanted a quick way to cover up the background of the stage. This wide-screen is 18 ft wide by approximately 12 ft tall. No matter what the school theater department sets up behind us, you cannot see it.

From a stage design perspective, I highly prefer a widescreen over anything else. It’s the easiest way to transform the aesthetic and look of your stage. It’s minimalistic but allows you to cast whatever image, video, and background textures you want.

We purchased our screen from Carl’s Place (www.carlofet.com). Carl’s place creates DIY projection screens that give you a massive display on a small budget. Here’s how it works. When you order a DIY kit from Carl’s Place, you receive the screen material with grommets, bungee cords to mount the screen to the frame, steel corner/support fittings, and assembly instructions to go to a local hardware store and purchase 1” piping to complete the frame yourself. It saves a lot of money on shipping and a lot of money compared to purchasing the whole frame yourself. Setting up our screen takes about 10 minutes with 3 or 4 people helping assemble the frame and connecting the bungee cords.

Step 4 - Assemble the trusses and mount lights on the trusses.

While the screen is assembled, other volunteers work on building the four 11ft trusses. On the top of all four trusses, we mount two LED wash lights. The center trusses hold up the widescreen. The trusses remain on the floor while we mount the lights. When the screen and trusses are ready, we raise and secure the screen on the trusses.

Step 5 - Set up the audio equipment and band instruments.

Once the screen and trusses are up, our band members and one of the production volunteers begins assembling the sound system and instruments. Our sound system consists of the following equipment.

  • Midas M32R - This is a fantastic sound console. It has the simple user interface of a Behringer X32 but with higher quality hardware and preamps. The M32 has wifi connectivity so it can be controlled by a tablet for total control or smartphones to control monitors.
  • Behringer S32 - We use this as a digital stage snake that is rack mounted and positioned by the drum set. Everything is plugged into the S32 and networked back to the M32R over an ethercon cable.
  • Powered Speakers - Our EV powered speakers pack a punch and sound fantastic. We have two 12 inch tops and two 18” subwoofers.
  • Wireless Microphones - We use three Sennheiser wireless microphones. One for the worship leader. One for the preaching pastor. One for the hosting pastor.
  • Wireless In-Ear Monitors - We have one wireless in-ear monitor transmitter paired with two wireless receivers. Each receiver receives a mono signal and is panned either to the left or right. It’s a handy hack to prevent the need to buy a second transmitter.
  • Other - We also have an Audix drum mic kit, a bunch of microphone stands, cables, DI Boxes, and a few Behringer P16 monitors. I’m not a huge fan of the P16. I’m going to purchase an eight channel headphone amp that will be a much more straightforward setup (not having to deal with the mixers), and the musicians can control their mix wirelessly with their phones (using the M32 app).

Our church owns a Gretch Catalina Club drum set with DW hardware and Zildjian K-Custom cymbals. Our keyboard rig consists of an M-Audio midi controller and MacBook Air running Mainstage.

Step 6 - Set up lighting.

We use the American DJ MyDMX 3.0 lighting controller to run our LED lights and the school’s existing DMX system. From our media laptop (which runs MyDMX 3.0 and ProPresenter), we plug a USB cable into the MyDMX interface and out from the interface, the DMX cable goes into a splitter. We run a DMX back to the school’s media booth where we plug into their DMX system, and we run a DMX line to the stage for our LED lighting system.

Once the trusses and screen are up, a production volunteer connects the four truss warmer lights and top wash lights with DMX and power-con cables. Everything is daisy-chained which drastically reduces cabling.

Step 7 - Set up the widescreen projector and stage display projector.

Approximately 5ft behind the widescreen, we place our ultra-short throw projector for a rear-projected image. We have another rear-projection setup in the back of the auditorium for stage display lyrics.

Step 8 - Troubleshoot and fine tune

Every week we spend a few minutes troubleshooting or fine-tuning the setup. One crucial fine-tuning step is light placement. Our LED lights have to be positioned in the right place, so they do not blind the congregation and they do not wash out the widescreen.

By 8:30, the band starts rehearsal, so that is when the production team will troubleshoot or fine-tune any issues with the setup. I use Ableton Live to automate ProPresenter and lighting, so this frees up our production volunteers to focus on mixing sound and making sure everything is functioning correctly.

On a good day, the band is finished rehearsal at 9:30 AM and we have our production meeting where we talk through the order of service with the pastors, ensuring everyone is on the same page. Then we have about 20 minutes to chill before the service and greet people as they enter. Our five-minute countdown video begins at 9:57 AM and the service kicks off at 10:02 AM.

That’s how we set up our church plant.

At least that’s how we set up worship and production for our church plant. This articled covered nothing about setting up for kids ministry and first impressions, each of which deserves a lengthy description.

I mentioned a lot of gear in this post. You can access my detailed and comprehensive list of gear by downloading my Worship Toolkit. It contains pricing and links to everything we use at Mission Lakewood.

What questions do you have about our set up? Let me know in the comments! Or better, leave me a voice message question and it could be featured on my podcast!