Our Paperless Stage
Jun 2011 22

A few months ago at i61 we were chatting through some of the little changes we could make to improve the way we did things on a Sunday. In essence we wanted to become a bit slicker and more visually appealing but we also wanted to reduce any barriers or exits to worship.

One of the ways we tried to achieve this was to remove the music stands from the stage. Removing them has been great, unknowingly they created a barrier between our team and the congregation. Vicky Beeching lists this amongst the 10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Leading Worship.

But achieving this brought it’s own unique set of problems.


Mainly because we couldn’t memorise all our songs, we just are not blessed that way. I, for example, can remember chords but not lyrics, whilst my co-leader Lee remembers lyrics but not chords.

So again we embraced our geekiness and turned to technology for a solution and once the trustees rejected our request for a bunch of iPads (worth a try) we settled on customising a function within our projection software.

We run a great package from Renewed Vision called ProPresenter. During the week we can all add to the setlist or database on our own laptops and any additions or changes are automatically sync’d via the wonders of Dropbox.

One of the great functions of ProPresenter is the facility to run a third screen or stage display. Our setup uses the computer screen as the main control, the second as the main church screen and now a third as our stage screen. We run the third screen via a usb to vga adapter.

As we are a pop up church that sets up each week in a school we simply project the third screen onto the back wall behind the congregation, many still don’t know it’s there . This screen is now used to display lyrics & chords.

And this is how.

First we need to set up the stage display configuration. We needed to make use of the current and next slide views but mainly the notes section. In ProPresenter we went to Window->Stage Display and set the options as below.

Next we needed to create a pages or word template to edit our lyrics and chords. The notes function in ProPresenter doesn’t allow text editing or spacing so this is our workaround.

We set up a template that matches the ProPresenter notes field like this.

Please note that you to make it work we needed to use ___ between chords and make sure we spaced to the end of each line.

Then we simply copy and pasted this into the notes section on each slide.

Now when the main screen is running the stage display looks like this.


We found that this projected onto the back wall allows the whole team to see the lyrics and chords and enabled us to remove all the music stands and chord sheets.

Obviously for the first few weeks the work load was increased but once we had them saved in ProPresenter the reduction in admin was fantastic. Also if we now decide to add in a song mid set, all the chords are displayed to the band.

Hope this helps





  1. KennyG says:

    This is brilliant! I’ve been looking for an effective way to ditch the music stands as well and this just might do the trick! Thanks!

  2. Josh Walker says:

    Great to see that other people are in the same boat. I’ve always thought the music stands get int the way, both physically and mentally. I just signed on with a church plant as the Creative Arts Director. I’m used to not playing with stands, but trying to convince my band, however, isn’t so easy. We’re running a similar setup with ProPresenter, but because we’re in a performance theater (and don’t have a functional back wall) we are using the stage display output via LCD monitors on the front lip of the stage. ProPresenter is great, huh? Nice post!

  3. Brad says:

    Do you ever run into problems of those who are capo’d having issues?
    I’ve considered using the “Nashville Numbering System” in this same way, but kind of think that it might be just as hard to get my guys to figure that out.

    What would be harder, have 4 guys learn the NNS or one guy (the leader who plays acoustic with capoes in the key of G) to learn to transpose in their head?

    With this, you have to remember that in any interlude/instrumental that there are blank slides set up with the chords still in the notes.

    • iam-kp says:

      Hi Brad, The NNS is a great idea, if your band can work it out quick enough!
      We’ve experimented with having both sets of chords, (capo’d in brackets) next to each other and it almost worked. On a more wordy song we filled up all the space too quickly and had to add in more slides.

      The way we run it is to put the G versions of the chords and each band member transpose to where they need it. I usually capo my acoustic, the bass player reads the capo chords and transposes as does electric & keys. Thats just how we’ve got it working. The idea is that its a safety net to fall back on really and we’ve found ourselves using them less & less.

  4. GregA says:

    Brad has a great question! I am sold on this technique because I think it’s brilliant, but transposing the chords would be my biggest concern. Just curious if anyone has suggestions. Thanks so much! :)

  5. David says:

    This is great! I’m getting it to work well, however, when I quit pro presenter. the lyrics scrunch together and no longer space accordingly. I’ve tried spacing to the end of each line in word and in the pro presenter word box…

    Can you elaborate on where you “make sure we spaced to the end of each line?” Perhaps you could also elaborate on the word template you made.


  6. Brad says:

    I’m encountering the same issue as David. But i wasn’t using pages, just the text editor. I will try your template. My work around was more work. I was just formatting the week and leaving it open all week. Dumb, but it worked to get us started.

    ProPresenter5 – http://www.renewedvision.com/propresenter.php?page=pro5#stage-display
    have you seen it. It has the ability to show your songs PDFs on the stage view. A pretty good solution. Doesn’t quite answer all my issues, but it’s a huge step. I haven’t heard if the Notes box will be more functional for these purposes. As of now, I like the way this works better.

    To get the band (which is a youth band to begin with – and a youth band whose “dress rehearsal” is the only time they practice all week) comfortable with the way this would work, I’m making videos of the “stage view” that go along with the track we base our arrangement off of. That way, they can practice along with the track while seeing what they will be seeing from the stage already.

    I’m thinking I can do the same thing with the loops and click track – but we aren’t there yet.

    Has anyone put in an mp3 of your loop and used the timeline feature of PP? In my thinking, the would automate most of the slides and loops starting. Basically, click go and let it run. But i haven’t tried it yet.

    Thanks again for posting this. I’ve been trying to do something along these lines for quite a while. I’d come to basically the same conclusion but hadn’t played with it enough to figure it out. In addition, trying to convince the “powers that be” that it is something necessary was difficult. But once they saw your info (and V.Beeching) they understood (I guess you can’t be a prophet in your hometown – sounds familiar)

  7. Brad says:

    Is it a fluke:

    I’m using your Pages template but using this format-

    Verse 1 <
    ….Let love explode and bring the dead to life<
    ……A love so bold To see a revolution…………somehow<

    where .=regular spacebars
    and <=control return

    I've tried it on several slides and quit and reopened propresenter several times

    There are no underscores? That would be great. The underscores add clutter that would be nice if they weren't there.

    ALSO – the | = the beginning of a new measure. I always use them to show the difference between whole measure chords and split measure chords. It helps me but I don't know if it makes a difference to anyone else in the band. 8/