Tools of the Trade by Steven Skaggs


The assignment for this blog is to present the “three main tools” that have helped me as a music minister.  I’m not sure these are the three, but they are three that I hope will be a help to you.

1 – “Finale” music writing program for mac or windows machines.  I have used Finale for 25 years to do everything from writing lead sheets and rhythms charts to full orchestral scores.  This can be an essential resource whatever the size of your church and the style of music you employ.  A couple of examples on how this can be useful:  1) You may have a high school trumpet player who would like to play a solo or perhaps play along with the praise band.  You can write his part in “concert pitch” and then transpose it to his Bb instrument with the click of your mouse.  2)  You may have the music for a song that’s not in the key you want.  All you have to do is scan it in to the program, then transpose it, again with the click of your mouse, to the preferred key.  That’s the positives.  Here are the negatives: The program is a little pricey and many users feel it has a steep learning curve.  My son, a high school band director and professional drummer, uses “Sibelius” because he feels it is easier to master.  Whichever you choose I would recommend having a friend who is familiar with the program that you can consult when you get in a jam.

2 – The Instrumental Resource for Church and School (Church Street Press) is a book that will complement  the music writing program recommended above.  It has a useful index that shows the typical range of band and orchestra instruments and explains transposing instruments.  Honestly, you can get that information through an on-line search.  What really makes this book valuable are the topics addressed in each chapter written by church musicians for church musicians focusing on instrumentalists.  It not only covers the mechanics of working with various instruments and styles of music but it also covers how this affects worship planning and other issues.

3 – My third recommendation is another book, High-Tech Worship?:  Using Presentational Technologies Wisely (Quentin J. Schultze, Baker Books).  I taught this book in some Super Saturday sessions for the Kentucky Baptist Convention when it came out in 2004 and it has been a favorite resource for my tech people since that time.  Yes, I realize that 2004 is a long time ago when it comes to technology.  But this book address these 21st century issues from a thoughtful biblical perspective in a way I have not seen elsewhere.  It’s an easy read that I have used as a devotional/educational resource for my tech teams.  It can also be a great asset for ministers who want to move their church toward using presentation technologies.  You just may find some ideas that keep you from making missteps with reluctant church members!

Honestly, these are probably not the three main tools I have used in my music ministry.  I chose them with an eye toward diversity–not wanting to just repeat what other bloggers have written for Church Music Today.  And perhaps I have gone “old school” a little.  But I pray these recommendations will be an asset to your ministry as our Lord uses you to lead people in worship.



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