How do you manage your music?

ipod headphones

Most of you have seen my master list, which will be getting an update in the next week, and if you haven’t…download it. I made that after watching a worship leader video with Paul Baloche and it has become and invaluable resource to me in my weekly planning.

If you have downloaded it and are using it or some form of it I would love to know. 

I do however have a few problems that I would like some feedback on:

  1. Ive got at least 400 CD’s and I am constantly learning new music for church. The problem is carrying around that many CD’s. How many of you are using Ipod’s to organize the music you are using in church?
  2. I have about 200 songs in my master list…more are being learned everyday the list is updated with new songs all the time and songs are taken off the list. The issue is with all the sheet music I have. Yes they are in binders and then they get messed up and stolen. lol. I’ve been thinking about taking every song I have and putting them into a large word file or pdf. that I can have on my laptop. There are foot switches for PDf page transition where it will turn pages and your laptop becomes your sheet music in church. There is also a digital music stand but that is pricey. I just have to figure something out cus that song book is getting heavy. What are you guys doing?
  3. My worship team is very dedicated but 95% of them dont listen to the music we do and don’t buy the CD’s. I know there are legal issues with giving people music, but I need them to learn them and can’t afford to buy 8 licenses for every song I own. What are you guys doing? are you putting them online on a private website?


17 responses to “How do you manage your music?”

  1. Darren Avatar

    I have no real answers for 1 and 3, because they aren’t problems yet.

    As far as 2, I’ve put all the music we have in our service booklet into a big D-ring binder. The binder is mine; no one else touches it. All the music is in plastic sleeves. All of the chord sheets are CCLI covered, so I can keep a copy due to our license, and I can give a copy to the other 2 musicians. All of the hymns are in hymnals that I own personally.

    The .pdf idea sounds neat. As a keyboardist who needs music, unfortunately I can’t just do the Word document.

  2. Darren Avatar

    One other thing that helps me manage my music: I have an MS Access database that contains all the songs in my notebook, their key, tempo, genre, and themes. This makes it easier for me to pick songs that go together. I also keep track of the last 5 times we have used the songs, so I can see if we’ve been using a certain type too often.

  3. James Burns Avatar


    I do use an MP3 player to work out my set lists. What I do is just purchase songs I need or prospective songs from itunes. I have a catalog of songs on my laptop and I archive them by burning them to CD.

    In this way I can only have songs that I know I may want to use instead of having the entire CD half of which may never be used.

    As far as music I use Finale to produce charts for the worship group, nothing to extravagant, just simple rhythm charts with chords and lyrics. I archive all of these charts on my laptop.

    Most weeks I can make PDFs of the charts and e-mail them out to the worship team members with the set list e-mail. This gives them the opportunity to look over the charts, practice the songs and form questions that they have about anything. It also produces an archive of PDF charts that I can burn to CD in alphabetical order.

    More recently I have been motivating my team members to learn the songs so we can get rid of the music stands on stage and really engage the congregation, but this will take time.

    Most times I will share music with team members by building a page like this one at

    These were some new songs for us so I set this up so they could go, listen and learn them online.

    This was long but I hope it helps.


  4. Paul J. Avatar

    I don’t know how much budget you have for this sort of thing, but Planning Center Online has saved my life and my sanity ( You can go try it out for free, and there are different levels of membership from $9 to $99 per month.
    Here’s the highlights of this deal for me –
    1) Automatic email notification of praise team members scheduled for each week (and automated reply)
    2) Download song info & copyright directly from CCLI
    3) Upload PDF’s of charts & lyrics for each song
    5) Team members can listen to songs directly from webpage on embedded mp3 player
    6) Drag-and-drop worship planning
    This has totally revolutionized our process. Our praise team shows up for rehearsal having downloaded their own charts/lyrics and listened to the songs. Well worth the money.
    Please go check it out.

  5. snowjunkie Avatar

    1) I don’t yet have a digital music player of any kind. Would love one, but I’m not sure it would help me in building set lists for Worship.

    2) I have a big folder with printed sheets. They are in no particular order. Some are scribbled on, some are tattered. I go through the folder each time picking out songs that I think will work for the following worship service. I usually end up reprinting additional sheets as they seem to go missing every week.

    3) I’ll simply learn the song off myself, then when the band gets together I will introduce it to them. We’ll practice it until we’re happy with the sound. If it sounds like pants we’ll drop it. Only once have I had to bring my laptop to let the band hear how the song should really sound.

    Love the new template by the way… nice.

  6. klampert Avatar

    Thanks for all the response on this so far…

    Darren: Great comment…I love that you have everything and nobody is alowd to touch it. ha ha ha. I’m not a fan of access…it has always been a pain to me.

    James: welcome aboard…Long comments are perfectly
    Which finale are you using? are you doing it with piano or midi guitar? I encourage learning songs also, but sadly ive been doing this for forever yet I can still olny remember like 5 songs without my music…its wierd.
    Nice site you sent…I may try that

    Paul: That planning center site seems great. ive messed with it, but sadly only half my worship team even uses the net. it kind of makes things complicated. but man that really is cool

    Snowgunkboy: I love your…I don’t really want an Ipod for doing setlists…I want one to have a catalog of all the songs im working on and everything we do so I can constantly work on them without having to mess with a bazillion CDs. Sounds like what you got going on is a very ordered chaos. lol

    Im glad you like the template…I upgraded the CSS in wordpress options and ive been messing with the code…I like to change it up all the time cus i get bored with it.

  7. James Burns Avatar

    Hey I use Finale 2004, an older version but it suits my needs. Most of the time I just key in the notes with the laptop keyboard. I’m not that great on piano and I’m not high tech enough to have midi guitar yet 🙂


  8. klampert Avatar

    very cool…hmmmi may go that route…that sounds pretty good

  9. ig Avatar

    1. I no longer own any CDs at all. Everything is digital and my iPod has become my indispensable tool to listen to music (except for my record collection, which only gets played during special moments). I’m not a worship leader (just member of a worship band), but I do co-lead a cover band, and the iPod has our master list, as well as playlists of typical sets (named by number, set 1, 2, etc or a genre, eg, hard rock set, blues set, etc). The iPod goes wherever I go and has become just an extension of my brain. I use it to move tunes around and get a feel for how sets can work and stuff like that.
    2. I still do paper lead/lyric sheets, and hate carrying my 3-ring binder notebook around. My goal in this dept is to eventually get a nice Mac notebook (laptop) and have all my leadsheets in there (PDF or whatever format) and let that be the main tool for that.
    3. Sharing music has become difficult, especially since I’m so iTunes centered and I can’t send folks protected files that I purchase without authorizing them to use my iTunes account. Our worship leader manages to have plain MP3 files of all the songs we do, and sends them to the band for us to download. I think that falls into the fair use copy rule. We do the same thing for my cover band, where our bass player Marc has every CD known to man and copies them to computer and shares them with the band to learn new songs. But, I really think the marketplace, especially in the worship professional musician area, is not responding to the needs of worship bands as you outline our needs in the post, and there’s lots of opportunities for somebody to come in and develop a tool that is designed for musicians and addresses all the licensing issues in a way that it is easy for musicians to work with. Hhhmmm…


  10. klampert Avatar

    great comment IG…i think your right…there is a need for something…So far I have only seen companies offer things like that for one recording company.

  11. jordan fowler Avatar

    hey, first time reader, first time commentor!

    1. even if you don’t get an ipod, download itunes for free and burn the cd’s in (or better yet, make an intern do it!) you can easily sort by title or artist then or even create setlists. make sure your harddrive size can support the file load you will be importing. then later, as you can afford it get the ipod.

    2. My admin has a large file folder with all the songs in alphabetical order in chart form. I simply hand her the songs about two weeks out and she pulls them, creates a packet for each band member and has them on stands when they arrive. If there is a new song, she emails out a pdf version of the chart early to them. We have two full bands (our church runs about 2,500) that play every other week. Sometimes, I’ll play the track for a month out at the rehearsal and point out any key riffs we want. We have a different kind of masterlist we keep (i like yours to) that shows song frequency as well (

    3. “Our worship leader manages to have plain MP3 files of all the songs we do, and sends them to the band for us to download. I think that falls into the fair use copy rule.”

    Okay guys, no offense but posting or emailing out mp3’s is illegal….and we have an intellectual properties lawyer on our video team. He confirmed this. If it is your own recording it is not. If it is a commercial recording it is…an there are no exceptions. It stinks I know. You develop an online portal with a licensing system like you mentioned and you’ll be a millionare…promise!

    jordan fowler
    crawl in. get dirty. serve the body.
    a colloborative tips, tools and best practices blog.

  12. klampert Avatar

    great info there. thanks fro stopping by…and your blog is fantastic…I’m adding it to my blog roll

  13. Brendan Prout Avatar

    1. I’m using iPods to run all the recorded music at church, so easy to set up playlists for specific services, as well as to have playlists with themes that I can have the Tech Arts team jump on if the service goes a different direction than expected (reflective playlist, celebratory playlist, etc)
    2. I have all my songs in Word docs. As I transcribe them into different keys, or do different arrangements, I just save as different versions. Every week I email out all the songs we’ll be doing, so the team members can print only the music they need, and it saves paper and hassle – I don’t have to maintain huge song binders anymore, other than for my personal use.
    Musicians who need sheet music can research it on their own time, as part of their commitment to the worship ministry. I don’t feel any particular need to coddle musicians who don’t want to stretch and learn to play improvisationally, when that can be Spirit quenching in worship if they can’t.
    3. I do three things: I bring my iPod to practices and play new songs for the teams during part of the practice time, then we learn the song right then. I also use Garageband to record the songs in a really simple format, just acoustic guitar and vocals, save it as an mp3, and email that out to the team. It’s my recording and I’m not selling it, so there are no copyright issues with sharing the music. The other thing I do is a couple times a year I’ll have an intensive Saturday all-day worship team new song session, where we listen to lots of new music, pick songs that hit it off with most of the team, make our own arrangements of it, and learn it together.

  14. klampert Avatar

    brendan…great comment thanks…

    I love that your doing an all day saturday thing…what a great idea!

  15. Chris Avatar

    Hey man – doing some browsing through your blog and ended up here.

    1. Any time I buy a CD on a church account (meaning that it is the church’s property, not my private property) I burn it to iTunes and it gets moved to a standalone 250GB hard drive. I have about 300 CD’s of music there plus a whack of iTunes purchases. ALL of that music is shared and accessible to any computer that has access to our network – again, this is music that is purchased and owned by the church so there is no issue whatsoever in making this music available. And even with the new iTunes Plus stuff with reduced DRM, there are fewer restrictions. iTunes allows you to make a certain number of burned copies of tracks for personal or backup use, as well. But basically all of the music that the church buys is available for all of our staff and ministries through our network.

    2. Planning Center Online all the way. Despite their little hiccup last week (which was handled amazingly well) I have been 100% satisifed with everything about these guys and their service. It has also made life a million times easier for one of our worship team members who does all of our team scheduling and assembles binders of music each week.

    3. I upload mp3’s of songs purchased or burned through iTunes to Planning Center but do NOT allow worship team members to download the songs. They are able to load the songs and stream them from the site but can’t download. If we weren’t able to do this, I would do simple verse/chorus/bridge scratch recordings with just vocal and guitar of each of the songs that we do and put those recordings in iTunes. Every time we would use that song in a weekend setlist I would build a playlist with those scratch recordings, burn CD’s and give them to our team members a week ahead.

  16. klampert Avatar

    great stuff Chris…thanks for going back to my old stuff…you gave me quite a bit to think about here

  17. Rick Farnsworth Avatar
    Rick Farnsworth

    Came across this page somehow and thought I would add in my 2 cents. I play guitar for a Catholic church and a Methodist church. Maintaining two binders of music really was a pain, not to mention heavy, cumbersome, etc. I found a program at called Virtual Music. There is some setup that needs to be done, but once you get the hang of it, you can add a new song in about a minute. Once you have your songs entered, you can create playlists for each service date. I use a tablet pc with an old USB mouse that I wired two foot switches to. This allows me to “turn” pages by pressing the buttons with my foot. There are some frustrations with the program, but overall, it is much better than maintaining two notebooks. I would love to have a real digital music stand one of these days, but for now, this is a great free alternative. Hope this helps.

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