How to move from paper to iPad for chord charts

Once you use iPads rather than paper charts for a month, you’ll never want to go back. Why?

  • You don’t need to make copies.
  • You’ll never file again.
  • The wind doesn't blow your charts away.
  • You can change keys on the fly.
  • You have a built-in metronome.
  • You can make notes just like on paper.
  • You can listen to recordings right from Planning Center Online.
  • You can even sync the iPads so that when the leader switches pages, everyone else’s pages switch.
  • You can lose those BIG black music stands. (removing barriers between your team and the congregation)
  • You can see your music even in the dark.
  • You will never shuffle paper on your stand again!

Convinced?


Here is a short tutorial on how it works as well as what you'll need to buy to get started. And by the way, nobody is sponsoring this or anything. I just think it's the best way to do things so I wanted to share it with you!


How it works 

  1. Create a plan in PCO and add your songs. (you can even do this in the Music Stand app, if you prefer)
  2. Go into each song and make sure you have your charts you need. NOTE: only the charts that are attached to the key you scheduled will be available to see in Music Stand. For this reason, I usually attach all charts to the Arrangement, rather than the key.
  3. At rehearsal, each person signs into Music Stand using their PCO login. Then select the appropriate service date and tap on the first song title. That will take you to the chord chart.
  4. You move between charts by swiping back and forth.
  5. You may need to select which PDF you want for each song. You can do this on the plan page by tapping on the little down arrow under the song title.
  6. You can also select a different chart from chart itself by single tapping in the center of the chart. This will bring up the menu bar at the top. In the center, tap the down arrow for other options.
  7. To make notes, tap the center of a chart to bring up the menu bar at the top. On the far right, tap the pencil icon. You have 3 options to add notes and one to erase notes. The first one is a drawing tool, next is a highlighting tool, then the eraser, and finally the typing tool. (That’s the one I use the most because it’s hard to write clearly without a stylus). Tap Done when you’re finished to go back to the chart.
  8. To hear a click track, tap the metronome in the menu bar. It’s the second icon from the right. If the tempo and time signature has been set in PCO for this song, it will show up here. If not, you’ll have to adjust it from the default 120 BPM. You can change the type of sound it uses, whether it’s subdivided, and whether it flashes to the beat. Tap the X to return to the chart.
  9. To listen to recordings that are attached to the song, tap the Play button in the menu bar. At the bottom of the screen, the available song will begin playing. If you tap the song title at the bottom left, it will bring up all available recordings in this plan. It’s best to have mp3’s or m4a’s rather than just YouTube links for two reasons. First, YouTube videos don’t always play, and second, you can’t transpose videos like you can audio recordings. I like to have the original key as well as the transposed key. PCO can do this for you. You will need a CCLI Rehearsal license add-on to do this, but it’s worth it! Pricing is here.
  10. Here are more help articles for Music Stand.

Supplies needed:

  • iPads ($100-330 each): They can be used, refurbished, or new. You can buy them in bulk on eBay, from the refurbished store at apple.com, or at a retailer. The important thing is to get ones that support the latest iOS, currently 11. So that would mean you’re looking for iPad Air, iPad Air 2, or iPad (5th Generation). You don’t need cellular, since you’ll likely be on the church Wi-Fi, so get Wi-Fi only models. You also don’t need lots of storage, so it’s fine to get the smallest memory (32 GB). There are currently refurbished iPads on apple.com for $279 or new on bestbuy.com for $269. That can add up quickly, so another option is to search on eBay for "lot of Apple iPad air" so that you can get bulk pricing. These usually come from companies that have upgraded. For example, here’s a listing for $1210 "LOT OF 10 Apple iPad Air 1st Gen 32GB Wi-Fi + 4G Cellular (AT&T) 9.7" MF003LL/A" That means you get them for $120 each. I’ve done this before with good success. After about 2 years, one of the five iPads we bought started having some display issues. But at $115 each, it was well worth it. Can you go with the 12.9 or 10.5 inch Pro models? Sure, but we’ve found the 9.7 inch ones to be fine.
  • Chargers: You want a USB Charging Station that will hold and charge multiple iPads. Here’s one for $50 from amazon.com. It holds 7 iPads. (if you buy a used iPad, it may not come with any cables, so make sure that the charging station has them.
  • Stands: K&M makes a great stand that you can attach to a microphone stand. My favorite is the 19740 Universal Tablet Holder. It’s about $57.
  • Smart Cover: Cases are optional, but I’d recommend at least getting a smart cover to protect the screen. You can get them for $15 here.
  • Music Stand app: Here’s the real genius…when you set things up in Planning Center Online (PCO), it all automatically gets updated to the Music Stand app. This is an add-on subscription to PCO. The app is free, and the monthly cost depends on your PCO level. Based on your number of team members, it is an additional $2, $5 or $10 a month.
  • PDF Charts: The Music Stand app only displays PDF’s, not Word docs. Whether you get your charts from SongSelect (boo!), PraiseCharts (better), create them in PCO with ChordPro (super snazzy!), or make your own (you can have the 1400 I’ve created over the years), you need to make sure they are in PCO. 
  • Page Turn Pedals: This is also optional, but since chord charts are sometimes on multiple pages or you want to go from one song to the next quickly, it might be easier to have a Bluetooth pedal to turn the pages, especially for guitar players. I use the AirTurn Duo. It costs $100.

Frequently Asked Questions:
  • Can team members use their own tablets? YES! The Music Stand app is available for iOS and Android. If everyone uses their own tablet and puts them on the existing music stands, the only cost to the church is the add-on subscription of $2-10 a month.


  • What if I don’t have Planning Center Online? 🤦Seriously, there is no good reason for this. Whatever duct tape solution you’ve limped along with for years will seem archaic once you’ve used PCO for six months. But if you’re a laggard’s laggard, then you can still use apps like OnSong without having a PCO account. (OnSong also works with PCO) We can help your church get set up with PCO. Just email PCO@adlibmusic.com to get started.


  • How do I change keys on the fly? This depends on where you get your charts from. SongSelect and PraiseCharts both have the ability to give you charts in different keys. Go into the song in PCO and add the new key (if it’s not there yet). Make sure the Download Chart box is checked. (This REQUIRES a $155 Advanced or $195 Premium SongSelect subscription that included chord charts.) If you make your own, you need to create one in the right key and add it to the song arrangement. The coolest option is to use PCO’s Lyrics & Chords creator using ChordPro. When you create a chart with this included feature, just add a new key and PCO automatically generates a chart just like the original one you made, but in the right key. Fantastic! NOTE: If you update a new key or chart in PCO, double tap the center of the chord chart in Music Stand to go to the plan and pull down the list and release it to refresh it. Then the new chart will be available. Ps. You can get many ChordPro charts for free from worshiptogether.com. They come as .txt files that you simply paste into PCO in the Lyrics & Chords section. Once you select the Original Key, everything will be golden!


-Dave