5 Tips for Better Lyric Screens

lyricscreenfeature

When I started leading worship years ago we were still using an overhead projector and clear plastic sheets with the lyrics printed on them. If you wanted to get fancy you would either hand write the lyrics in different colors and with artistic flair or use your computer to do something similar. God forbid you want to allow the spirit to move and repeat something… Now we have tremendous power at our fingertips with presentation software that is basically limitless with potential; multiple screens, 3D, moving text and so much more. But simply put you don’t need super fancy software to make your lyric presentation add to your services rather than just be part of the service.
I wrote my college thesis on a concept that would shortly after be termed as “Visual Worship.” In the recent history of the church we have been completely neglecting worshipping visually; worshipping with our eyes and not just our voice. Historically the church tried to connect worship with more senses that we do today, especially visually. Basilicas were built with a huge verticality to draw the eyes towards heaven. Every aspect of the architecture had a theological reasoning behind it. Stained glass windows were not much different than our modern worship screens today; colored glass telling visual stories when illuminated with light. If we understand the visual history of the church then maybe we should consider our lyric screens with more prayer and preparation than we currently might. It is not unusual for me to spend and hour or two on the screens to make sure every aspect is adding to our worship service. I consider the font, the background, the transitions, the colors, and so much more each week to hopefully add to the service weekly. This is not something to just pass to another person or secretary to just complete. This is something that can dramatically add to your worship service every weekend.

Here are 5 easy ways to start seeing your lyric screens as more than just words and part of your overall worship experience.

1. Fonts

I have been in too many churches that just rely on Arial, Verdana, or Times New Roman. Basic fonts that add no creative look to the screens at all. We’ve all seen it. Yes it displays the lyrics of the song but does it display the emotion? I have also seen churches who may try too hard and use crazy fonts that are hard to read or just seem to be used for the sake of using them. If you can identify the emotion of the song and best represent it with a font that helps reinforce it then you are adding to the worship service as oppose to just displaying lyrics.
You should take a second to check out the my friends at VisualWorshipper.com for their FREE FONT GUIDE as well as a quick post on some ideas for screens beyond the typical font and typical alignment.

Screen-1

Bonus: Thinking about using Comic Sans… CLICK HERE. Papyrus looks pretty awesome doesn’t it… NO! What about LOBSTER FONT

2. Line Breaks and Paragraph Breaks
There is nothing more frustrating to me than a bad line break of paragraph break on worship lyric screens.  If you sing through the song you know where there should be a line break or even a screen break.  I have seen this before…

Open the eyes of my heart lord Open the
Eyes of my heart. I want to see you, I
want to see You 

Quit that!!!!! Quit letting the screen margins determine where your line breaks happen! Spend the few extra seconds to break the lines naturally at the end of the phrase!  Think of how you sing the song and break the lines accordingly.

The same goes for paragraph breaks.  A good rule is no more than 5 lines per slide but if you sing through the song I’m positive you can find places to break to a new slide that won’t rush your volunteer and allow for less words per slide.  More screens appropriately separated are so much more effective than 4-5 lines per slide; it’s busy.

Screen-4

3. Use Different Font Weights, Sizes and Capitalization
Don’t get lazy and allow each screen to have the same font weight , font size, or capitalization features the whole slide.  You can emphasize words with a simple bold or capitalization or font size.  You’ve seen this trend if you have ever used good lyric videos.  You can achieve this same look with some time spent with each slide.  And it’s well worthy it.  Imagine an energetic line that is repeated growing in size each time it is repeated on a new screen.  It adds motion and energy visually not just through the music.  One of my favorite things as of late is to allow one line to be normal weight and capitalization while the following line (or vice verse if the first line carries more weight lyrically) to be capitalized and maybe bolded as well.  All of this adds motion and helps reinforce what the music, lights and environment is already doing.

Screen-3

4.  Use Background Shapes to Make Your Lyrics Pop
Sometimes you have backgrounds that you really love but don’t work well with lyrics over top of them.  Sure you can adjust the brightness with most programs but that tends to make them look kinda washed out and you lose that nice contrast.  You could make your lyrics gigantic but that loses that visual balance you are going for.  What about using some shapes behind your text to help make those lyrics pop while still being able to use your backgrounds.  ProPresenter makes it really easy to do.  And I have done it as well with other programs like Media Shout and SongSelect.  It’s a simple way to use that nice thin modern font you love with more backgrounds than you could without.

Screen-2

5. Sometimes Simpler is Better
I am very guilty of overdoing it at times.  I like motion over still backgrounds, generally.  Subtle motion seems more appealing to me than a static image.  But that being said, as of late I am beginning to understand the power of a static image vs. a moving one, especially when used together.  Maybe you have a low energy verse that leads into a powerful chorus.  What if you treated your backgrounds the same way you treat the music of the song?  Allowing yourself to see the visuals as important as the music and vocals will give you a whole new perspective and hopefully dedication to spend more than a few minutes putting together your support screens each week for worship.

BONUSES:
– If I ever see another puke yellow lyric over a blueish background again I will literally throw an axe through a post modern stage design…
– Don’t ever, ever, ever treat your screens as something to just get done before the weekend.  Spend some time studying color theory, graphic design and typography.  There are great studies out there showing the impact of each on the viewers emotions and response to said medium
– Alignment can be just as effective to express emotion and mood as font and background
– Punctuation is completely up to your preference.  I choose to not use most punctuation but have begun to find that at time is can help add to the day.
– This is an area that needs approached prayerfully just like planning your set list or anything you plan for helping people meet a loving God on a weekend.

He's a nice guy

6 Comments

  1. Paul   •  

    Thank you for sharing this post and the insights into it. As I enter back into doing media for worship after a year of hiatus, it’s a whole new world. It was nice to have a refresher on these valuable points.

  2. Joel   •  

    I was wondering what the font above was with the lyrics “Guilty vile and helpless we; Spotless lamb of God was He”

  3. Susie T   •  

    I do believe that you may be my long lost twin. I do the lyrics from propresenter for my church and I get very irate when I am not running lyrics b/c no one else seems to care about line and verse breaks. I also like to match the backgrounds to the stage lighting display. Anyways I just wanted to tell you that this is an awesome post.

  4. Pingback: 5 Tips for Better Lyric Screens | WorshipIdeas.com

  5. otis   •  

    Question: do you want the people to easily read the lyrics? Yes or No
    If yes, then LEFT JUSTIFY all the lyrics. Why?

    Left justifying the text is essential for the ease of following the text. The “center” format is the default in PowerPoint, hence it is a left over from LAZY A/V guys who did not take time to make the lyrics easy to read. Limiting the amount of words per slide is paramount for ease of readability also.

    Suggesting or recommending centered text is misguided, it is not easy for people any age to read. Do ANY of your reading materials include centered text? NO, they do not. You read no blog, email. text message, book, ebook, or anything else that is centered text.

    The words on the slide must be easily read, period. The text font must be such that it lends itself to that purpose, being easily read. The color of the letters must offer enough contrast with the background image for the words/lyrics to be comfortably read.

    In an often painstaking process, the text/lyrics are divided line by line, even word by word for ease of singing or reading.
    The breaks in each phrase/line are placed in the appropriate locations between words or phrases where a pause is natural.
    In most cases each line of a song mimics the breaks or pauses in the song. Wow, does that make it easy to sing.

    Okay, now I’ll hear from “experts” that think “it’s cool looking” or whatever.

    Bottom line, do you want the people to easily read, and sing, the lyrics or not. Yes or No

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *