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October 26, 2011

6

Improving Your Projected Song Lyrics – Part 1

by Kenny Lamm
badpresentation

Displaying song lyrics in worship with excellence is an often overlooked area of preparation, yet one that can really enhance our worship times. Conversely, poor slide production and operation of the lyric display can greatly hamper worship. (If your church does not use video in worship, start with a previous post, Got Video?)

In the next few weeks, we will look at various components of slide production and operation. These principles will be applicable whether you use PowerPoint or one of the worship presentation software packages such as EasyWorship, MediaShout, ProPresenter, Open LP or SongShow Plus.

This post will address the font size, font type, and line spacing.

Our goal is to make the slide clearly readable by every person from the front row to the back row. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Select a sans-serif font. (that’s a font without “feet”). Some examples are Arial, Calibri, and Verdana. These fonts are easier to read than the serif fonts like Times Roman. Please please please NEVER use Comic Sans!

Here is an example of a serif font:

 

Now, look at the same slide with a sans-serif font. It is much cleaner and easier to read.

 Don’t make the font size too large or too small; aim for just right. If your font size is too large, with little margins, it tends to create tension–almost a feeling of someone screaming at you.

However, small fonts will be unreadable to many, and they psychologically can lead to diminished singing. I see this most often when people try to include too many lyrics on one slide.

A good font size will have nice margins around the slide and the font will be somewhere in the 32-48 pt size, depending upon the font you are using. Some fonts are larger at 32 point than others. Here is an example of a good size:

The font size you select also should be dictated by the size of your screen and the longest distance from your screen to the places people stand for singing. If you have an under-sized screen for the room you are in, the fonts may have to be larger than optimal in order for the person farthest away to easily read the text. To determine this, try several font sizes on screen, standing at the farthest point and determine what is readable and what is too small. This will help you in determining font sizes for your presentations.

Aim for consistency in font size within the slides of a song. Avoid the temptation to size each slide separately for maximum font size within these guidelines. That can lead to some slides with much larger fonts than others, creating a sense of some being overbearing. Here is a poor example:

 

Note how much larger the last slide’s font is. By itself, it isn’t all bad, but in the context of the song, it is overbearing. It would be better to make the font exactly the same as the previous slides or only slightly larger:

Consider line spacing as you prepare the slide. In a later post, I will address the number of lines of text to include on a slide, but for now, let’s consider the spacing between lines. If your slide has only four lines of text, increase your line spacing to prevent the lines from looking crowded. The first slide has little space between lines. The second is much more pleasant to view:

The first example is too tight. The second one gives some breathing room. Putting in too much line spacing, however can be distracting as you move the lines too far apart:

I like to use around 1.2 – 1.3 for line spacing when possible.

 

Next week, I will address many other qualities of good and bad lyric presentation. Take a good look at your slides for this weekend. Do you need to make some adjustments? I welcome your comments.

Go to: Improving Your Projected Song Lyrics – Part 2

 

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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. This is a great article to help churches understand lyric projection better.

    Reply
  2. Marco
    Mar 9 2012

    Thanks for the tips, this article answered a lot of my questions on song presentations. What are your thoughts on backgrounds?

    Reply
  3. Nov 23 2011

    It’s my personal preference to have each line begin with a capital letter, so the lyrics visually look like a poem rather than a random sequence of words.

    I also like to include the secondary parts if it’s something that would be fairly familiar. I put those on parentheses. I do that because it encourages part singing, an art that is being lost in congregational singing.

    To use the song in the article as an example, I would go with:

    It is well (it is well)
    With my soul (with my soul).
    It is well,
    It is well
    With my soul.

    My biggest pet peeve is seeing bizarre breaks in phrasing that don’t match the music. I try to avoid that as much as possible, generally putting line breaks on the screen in the same spot people would take a breath. Sometimes another break is necessary if the song moves fast and has a lot of words per phrase, but most of the time, breaking where breathing is doable.

    Reply
    • Nov 23 2011

      Great words. I will be dealing with some of these items in part 3 (at least 4 parts outlined at moment). Thanks for the great suggestions!

      Reply
  4. Nov 10 2011

    Thanks for barring the use of comic sans. I know you said not to use serif fonts, but it should probably be said equally as strongly not to use Times New Roman! Nothing screams “I put no thought into this” more than that fingernails-on-a-chalkboard font! :)

    I’m currently using Garamond for our lyrics slides, which is a serif font. I used Helvetica Light for a long time and was looking for a different flavor. I may need to think about that though because I do think you’re right about readability. (Ironically, it seems to work the opposite way on paper, right? Serif fonts are considered easier to read there.)

    For Christmas songs, I use a different theme with Optima and that’s probably my favorite.

    Reply
  5. Pam Snyder
    Oct 27 2011

    I look forward to reading these as I am the secretary here at the church and am responsible for composing laying out the Sunday projections.

    Reply

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