Notated vocal charts can help your worship team learn vocal harmonies more quickly and with more precision. Even if your vocalists can’t all read music, seeing the contour of a notated harmony line can be a helpful aid.
What’s also helpful is that notation establishes the harmonies for future use of a song. There is less of a question of what harmonies to sing when it’s defined in black and white.
I wanted to share the video below to give you a jumping off point, with some of the shortcuts I’ve learned over the years.
What you’ll need:
- A MIDI keyboard connected to your computer.
- A MIDI recording application. I use Logic Pro 10, but there are any number of programs that can do the same thing. Click here for some other options.
- Music notation software.
To create a notated chart, I start with my recording program and play in the the melody of any sections that will have harmonies. I don’t bother to notate unison lines because I trust that my team members will put in the time necessary to learn unison lines by listening to recordings.
A couple things about playing notes in:
- Don’t use the sustain pedal, because note lengths are only recorded for how long you hold the keys down.
- Give thought to how much of the vocal inflections you want to include in the chart. Sometimes a little scoop in the vocal part is implied as part of your team’s style. Other times, it might be helpful to include the actual inflected notes in the chart. Find a balance that works for you and your team.
Once I’ve played in the melody notes, I clean them up a bit – quantize to the smallest note value, adjust notes held too long, and shift any notes that quantized the wrong way. It is much easier to edit notes here than adjusting pitches and rhythms in the notation software.
The idea is to get that first vocal part just right before moving on. To create harmonies, I duplicate the first part and shift all the pitches down a couple notes in the scale. To make sure the new notes stay with the scale, I quantize the pitches according to the key of the song. Then, I listen through and adjust any pitches that don’t sound right. Trial and error is often the best approach here. I duplicate this new part and repeat the process for a third vocal part.
Once I’m ready to export, I select the regions, then export the MIDI file. Next, I open the MIDI file with my notation software. I use a program called Finale, which is well-known and widely used, but also very expensive. Finale PrintMusic is a much less expensive version that will fit most needs. Click here for some other options.
To import the MIDI into Finale, we need to first set the key signature, time signature, and quantization setting. We again set the quantization for the smallest note value.
After clicking OK, the notated music appears. At this point, look for any glaring issues. If the notes were correct in the MIDI recorder, there may not be anything to edit here. To save formatting time, I copy all the notes from this document and paste them into a template file. Click here to download the Finale vocal chart template I use.
Once the notes are in the new template, I add lyrics and any needed slurs to one part. Then, I use the edit filter to copy only those elements to other parts, leaving their harmony notes intact.
I make a few more quick adjustments to the music before it’s done. I delete the measure numbers using the Measure tool and menu, I reduce the size of the notation on the page down to around 86%, then I copy in text from the unison sections of the song.
After deleting extra measures, the chart is complete – time to print or export as a PDF.
Let me know if this has been a helpful resource for you and if you’re interested in learning more about it!