The ultimate guide to chord chart and sheet music apps for worship leaders and teams
We’re currently living in a technological revolution. It’s amazing how much technology we have even compared to just 10 years ago. Think about what serving on a worship team on Sundays looked like before the iPad was released. Here’s what it looked like for me:
We were sent the music a couple weeks in advance, typically on a CD (or cassette...) or some digital format over e-mail. Mix tapes basically. We also got a set list with paper sheet music or chord charts, and we practiced to a stereo.
There was no option to change keys on the audio file. No other files to reference for arrangement changes. And we managed piles of paper charts with hand written notes (remember the master worship chart binders with the page protector sleeves?!). In other words, the dark ages.
Yet still today we print and carry song charts, scatter them on the floor or on a music stand, even though we have easily accessible technology (on devices most of us already own!).
Why You Should Go Paperless For Chord Charts
If you’re reading this there’s a good chance you’re already using some kind of app to manage chord charts and Sunday planning. If that’s the case, skip ahead to the next section for my breakdown of the best apps.
If you’re just kicking the tired of switching to charting apps, let me put on my selling shoes and give you the hard sell.
As much as we try to be prepared, we have to be open for changes during rehearsal. Key changes are the most common.
Your very experienced musicians can do this on the fly. But your less experienced ones will need new charts. With chord chart apps utilizing the ChordPro format, once you create the chart, you can change the key on the fly. From the same screen.
What if a song isn’t working with the band? Swap it out for one that does. Again, because everyone is using a tablet, you’re not wasting paper or time with the changes. You can re-order the set, add in arrangement notes, and the musicians can add additional notes and annotate as needed.
With pretty much every chord chart app you can create individual set lists. Each player picks the chart they need. Be it lyric sheets, actual chords, or capo chords.
A Much Cleaner Stage
I’ve never been at a church that outright banned music stands, but they’re often not encouraged. There’s much debate over whether they should be on the stage or not, but at the very least they can be a distraction. Visually or audibly when everyone changes charts when the music stops.
If you’re using a tablet and a chord chart app, you can clean up a lot of the clutter. The guitar player doesn’t need to have 5-8 chord charts strewn about on the floor. Chart changes are discreet. And you can actually read the charts in dimmer lighting much easier.
Pro tip: utilize your existing mic stands and stage hardware with a magnetic tablet mount.
Better For Musicians (And The Environment)
Let’s face it, we all know we need to be good stewards and do our part to prevent waste. Even if you recycle every single chart you print, it’s still an unnecessary waste in our age. We have all of the tools we need right at our fingertips. That’s not to mention the financial cost of single use paper.
Your musicians will be much happier too!
For one, they’ll be able to practice in the right key. To the actual audio track. With most apps you can load MP3s and even change the key of the track. They’ll have all of the audio files, additional reference files if needed, clear direction notes, and all the charts they need. All of which they take to rehearsals and services on their tablet.
If you have the hot-shot song memorizer on your team who doesn’t use charts on Sundays, they can just pull up the set list and order of service on their phones.
What Are The Best Chord Chart Apps for Worship?
There are hundreds of chord chart apps available for both Android and iOS devices. However, three stand out more than the rest for worship teams. They’re the most popular and widely used on Sunday morning. For very good reasons.
Price: $2, $5, or $10 per month, depending on your PCO Services Plan.
If you’re already using Planning Center Online (PCO) for planning and scheduling, Music Stand by Planning Center is a perfect pairing. It’s a separate app, but is linked to your profile in PCO.
CCLI and Song Select are integrated in Music Stand (Planning Center), giving you access to chord charts and lyrics sheets for thousands of songs with legal copyright licensing. The charts are ChordPro, so transposing on the fly is incredibly easy. All of the charts you make are ChordPro charts too.
When you’re at home practicing you can use the built in audio player to play along, or metronome to play in time. The metronome features a visual flash and audio options.
When you’re at rehearsals, break out your favorite stylus and make notes with Music Stand’s annotation feature. Highlight sections, make arrangement notes, or just doodle while the vocalists are trying to find the perfect key.
Music Stand is compatible with Apple TV and Chromecast (and standard video out cables) to use for secondary displays. Confidence monitors, lyrics for the congregation, etc.
The Synced Display feature is one of my favorites. When displays are synced, one person can change the charts for all connected devices. This means everyone is (literally) on the same page. For the ultimate experience in efficiency and hands-free page turning, use a Bluetooth page turner and app controller like STOMP.
OnSong has earned their place as one of the most well known and reputable chord chart and sheet music apps available. And a lot of churches have found it to be particularly useful for their teams.
Like Music Stand by Planning Center, OnSong uses ChordPro format. This lets you change keys on the fly, or store several versions (keys) of the same song. Planning Center is integrated in OnSong, so if you use PCO for scheduling you can import all of those songs into OnSong.
OnSong is also integrated with CCLI Song Select, WorshipReady.com, WorshipPlanning.com and Rocking With The Cross. Between these and CCLI Song Select in Planning Center, you will probably never need to create your own charts. If you decide to anyway, they’ll be in ChordPro so you’ll still have all of the benefits.
Creating setlists, and rearranging those setlists, is super easy. And since you can change keys on the fly you can experiment with different capo voicings without all the math.
Google Drive, Spotify, and iTunes are all linked to OnSong. Between these three you’re able to import charts, lyrics (PDF’s of any kind really), audio files for practicing, and even backing tracks. The backing tracks are triggered from the app itself too.
Some of the other notable bells and whistles are Chromecast integration for secondary monitors, top notch annotation capability, autoscroll for those multi-page charts, and Bumpers that tell you what’s coming next.
And of course, OnSong is 100% compatible with your favorite Bluetooth page turner and app controller (hint hint).
Price: $2 per chart (A la carte), $12.99 monthly for ChartBuilder Subscription
Charts by MultiTracks is perhaps the most unique chord chart app, but not necessarily for the charts themselves. Like Music Stand and OnSong, it’s in the ChordPro format. You can import, download, and easily build your own charts with ChartBuilder. Changing keys on the fly is easy and effortless like you’d expect with ChordPro.
The biggest difference is that each chord chart perfectly matches the MultiTrack for it. This is ideal if you’re already using MuliTracks’....multi tracks, or are thinking about getting into multi tracks. If you are a fan of MultiTracks then this is your best bet. If you don’t use multi tracks, then you’re better off going with Music Stand or OnSong.
Each band member can use a different chord chart from a single chart download. Think about capo’s and alternate tunings.
You also have the option to use RehearsalMix. This clever tool lets your musicians “isolate” or “remove” their instrument’s parts from the mix. If you’re learning a part, you can bring it way forward in the mix. When you’re practicing you can remove it entirely.
If you’re already using STOMP to turn pages, keep in mind that STOMP can also trigger your multi tracks and loops!
My favorite feature is the chord display format. You can display the chords as standard chords, Nashville Numbers, or Roman Numerals. This can be useful if you have more advanced players. But I mostly love the attention to detail that this suggests.
Your Favorite Chord Chart App + STOMP
When you’re leading worship, that’s all you want to focus on. You don’t need distractions or anything taking your hands off your instrument. Even with paperless chord charts and lyric sheets, the “pages” still need to be turned.
So do that hands-free.
STOMP is compatible with almost every charting app, including Music Stand, OnSong, and Charts by MultiTracks.com. With STOMP you don’t have to take your hands off your instrument, or even stop playing when changing charts.
As musicians, everything we use are tools. That effect pedal, wireless unit, keyboard synth pack. And so it is with any of these chord chart apps and STOMP. Tools to give you time back during rehearsals so you can smooth over the rough edges of the set. Tools to keep the set flowing on Sunday morning.
Tools to keep you focused on what you’re doing; leading worship.Lastly, if you've already made the leap to using a tablet in worship then you'll want to make sure and have a quality tablet stand rather than that big bulky manhasset stand left over from the choir room days. Check out our list of the Best Tablet Mounts.