Music without Musicians
How do you resource a church with sung worship when there are very few (or no) musicians? Adrian Reynolds reviews a tool that offers a solution.
One of the questions we’re asked a lot is whether we know of any resources to help provide music in smaller churches. It’s an important question, and not just for smaller churches, as it happens. I served in a church of 350 where I was regularly the only musician.
There is a longer-term answer, which is about raising up and training musicians, something that others are contributing to well. But what about in the short term? Here’s my favourite solution – it’s a piece of software called iSingWorship. I’ve recommended it so many times, that were I on commission, I could afford an early retirement.*
How it works
Anyone who has sung along to a music track knows it has severe limitations. Most significantly, you’re stuck with their arrangement, so when the band on the YouTube channel drifts off into a screaming guitar solo, you have to join them, whether or not you want to. Album (and sometimes live) versions of songs are never quite what you want them to be.
The value of this software is that is gives you some control over such factors. I particularly like iSing – it seems head and shoulders above other solutions. The control software is free and available for any platform; moreover, the licence allows you to use it on as many multiple devices as you like, providing you don’t use more than three at the same time.
So, for example, we use the software at our smaller conferences (where it has been very popular). Johnny and I could be using the same song on the same day in two different locations: no problem. Or, at church, where we have three small groups, we could use the same licence to serve each one.
Once you have the software, you buy a song. Currently each song costs £2.99 and there are about 200 available. You’ll recognise most of them, even if you wouldn’t use all of them. There’s a mix of old and new, with most focus on newer songs (which is where many musician limited churches struggle). There are one or two free songs, for you to try the concept out.
Once you’re inside a song, you can either play it right through, or you can use it manually to select the next component to sing. Here’s a screenshot from my iPad to give you an idea.
On the left are a list of the components I can click on to come next. At the moment, it’s set to repeat verse 1, but if I didn’t want to do that and instead wanted to go straight to the chorus, I could line that up instead. Equally, if I didn’t want a repeat chorus at the end, I could just click on ‘End’ whilst chorus 4 is playing. All the joins are wonderfully seamless. iSing are adding songs all the time.
The quality of the music is superb. I can’t be too positive about it. It’s not electronic, nor amateur, and those seamless joins are, to me – a musician – things of beauty.
You’ll see that – if you’re into that sort of thing – there are some further options below for instrumental interludes (turns out you can have that screaming guitar solo after all if you really want). The fader button on the bottom right allows you to fade vocals and guitars in and out depending on your preferences (I tend to use a tiny bit of vocals to make a good start to each verse).
If you connect your PC, tablet or phone to a screen and have entered a CCLI number, then the app will also project the displayed words.
There are, naturally, some limitations, which an honest review needs to make clear.
First, if you project the words, you are stuck with these words. If you prefer modern words to hymns (as I do), there are no options to change them. Second, as the music is real and not synthesised, there are no options for a key change. You have to sing in the recorded key. Personally, I’ve never found this to be a problem.
Lastly, the website (from where you buy the songs) is a bit poor to navigate around, links to links and so on. But you don’t to go there very often and, whilst not brilliant, it’s perfectly manageable.
It’s a great resource and worth a look.
*Just for the record, I’ve no connection with iSingWorship and am definitely not on commission!