5 Reasons you Should be Controlling ProPresenter with MIDI

With the release of ProPresenter 7, the ability to control ProPresenter with MIDI is now included for free! This is a feature I’ve personally been using and teaching Worship Leaders to use since it was first released. 

The ability to control ProPresenter remotely with MIDI allows for so many possibilities but one of the most practical is the ability to send MIDI from Ableton Live or similar software to sync up your lyrics with your songs. As long as you’re playing with a click track and you’re sending MIDI you can trigger all your lyrics at the exact right time. 

In this article, we’re going to explore 5 reasons why you should consider doing this, and in our next article, we’ll give a quick look at how to get started.

When It’s Just You 

Being a Worship Leader at a church often means you’re the Worship Leader, Production Manager, Web-Designer, Janitor, and Hospitality Director. Sundays are go time, but they can be stressful when it’s all on you. When you are first launching a new church or in a smaller church, you don’t always have access to volunteers to fill every position.  

With a laptop, your song file in Ableton Live, and ProPresenter, you can pre-program your lyrics during the week and get everything perfect beforehand. On Sunday you can walk in, open your Ableton set, and press play. While you lead, your lyrics will be exactly what you planned for them to be during the week.

When Freedom and Flexibility are Paramount

One of the arguments I often hear from folks that are hesitant to using tracks is they feel restricted when using tracks. For some churches, the ability to repeat a song section, or jump around in their arrangement is highly important. 

Using Ableton Live means you can play WITH tracks, not TO tracks. You can repeat any section of your song, jump around your arrangement and do all of it easily from a MIDI controller. The best part of this functionality? It also extends to your lyrics.

If you’re syncing your lyrics to your Ableton song session, as you repeat a section, or jump to another song section guess what? Your lyrics follow. No need to work out crazy hand signals with your ProPresenter volunteer to try to cue them into when you’re repeating. You jump where you want to and the lyrics follow perfectly every time. It can be as simple as pressing one button on a MIDI controller.

When Production Value is Highly Important

My busiest season with training and consulting always comes twice a year, Christmas and Easter. This is typically when most churches “pull out all the stops” when it comes to production. One of the easiest ways to step up your production is to automate your lyrics and trigger videos in sync with the music. 

Easter and Christmas are typical times churches want to “up” their production. They want to integrate more video, more lights and increase their production value. If you’re looking to increase your production value, syncing up your lyrics is an incredibly easy way to increase your production value. 

Using MIDI and ProPresenter, you can easily sync up your lyrics, and trigger videos in-between songs and increase the production value of your service without tons of time or effort. 

When High-Level Production needs to be Repeated

It’s really difficult for humans to get it right every time. Preparation for those Christmas and Easter marathon services or performances can be difficult. If you’ve got 15 rehearsals leading up to 8 services, you’ve got to find someone to sit behind a computer for all of those and hope they get it right every time. 

If you’re automating lyrics in ProPresenter, you can spend the time to get it right the first time, and during every rehearsal and performance, it’s exactly what you expect. You can even jump around your song and your lyrics will follow. And in this context-no need for a human to “babysit” the computer during those long rehearsals.

When you Need to Get it Right before it’s Time

Last year my church recorded a live worship album. A live recording means lots of rehearsal time to get it right, and multiple takes to get various camera angles. It’s really important that each performance is as consistent as possible so it’s easy to edit between various audio and video takes to assemble the final product.

I spent a few hours dropping in MIDI cues into Ableton to sync up our lyrics perfectly as well as pre-programming our light cues alongside our Ableton set. Across every rehearsal and every take, every light and every lyric happened consistently at the right time. 

Before it was time to record, we were able to sit down as a team and watch through the entire experience with lights, lyrics, and full tracks. This allowed all the Worship Leaders, band, and creative team to sit back and watch the entire experience to make sure it was what we wanted. It allowed Worship Leaders that would be on stage to see exactly what it would look like, speak into the experience, and feel confident the production was also leading worship. I was also able to really quickly adjust the timing of lights and lyrics if someone wanted to change something, and watch it back in real-time.

These are only a few reasons to consider automating ProPresenter with Ableton Live. Before we wrap up this article I want to address a common objection I often hear towards doing this.

But what about my volunteers!

In over 8 years of working with churches on automating lyrics with ProPresenter, the most asked question is, “Isn’t this going to get rid of all my ProPresenter volunteers?” “We have great volunteers and we value them, so we’ll never do this!”. 

While I greatly appreciate the heart behind these comments, they couldn’t be further from the truth. Using ProPresenter to automate your lyrics with Ableton will not get rid of your volunteers and in-fact I believe it’s a way you can remove some of the pressure they feel on a Sunday morning. 

Someone will still need to create your ProPresenter slides. You’ll still need someone with great design sense to choose a great-looking, legible font and format all your slides specifically for your setup. 

While it’s easy to automate slides anytime you’re playing with a click, you’re still going to need someone running slides during the sermon. That is unless your Pastor is preaching to a click. If so, send me a link to your service-I want to see it! Having a volunteer following along with your Pastor’s notes and triggering scripture, sermon points at the perfect time is incredibly important. 

Hopefully, by now you’re convinced you’re ready to get started with controlling lyrics with MIDI in ProPresenter. Start by downloading this free MIDI cues file https://fromstudiotostage.com/propresenter/ and join us soon for our next article as we discuss how to get started!

Learn more about ProPresenter and its feature-specific capabilities for live worship production here.

Will Doggett

Will Doggett is an Ableton Live Certified Trainer and the founder of From Studio to Stage, an online resource dedicated to teaching people how to perform with Ableton Live on stage. He’s passionate about making complex things simple and has been teaching others how to integrate Ableton Live into their performance setups since 2008.

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