Church Song Lyrics: Wider-Screen

Back in 2002 I wrote a widely-publicized article about all churches needing to make the move to 16:9 aspect ratio widescreen. Almost 11 years later, it turns out I was almost right.

The idea that 16:9 aspect ratio allows for the width to type in song lyrics “more like they’re sung” without as many odd carriage-returns is still true today. It’s as if 16:9 was made for church song lyrics, nevermind the change from Standard Definition television to Widescreen TV. But what I didn’t see happening as much as it has is the use of even wider screens than the new 16:9 standard. The creative minds in churches have been adding more impressive display technology as it improves and the price drops. Well beyond 16:9, superwide edge-blended screens and even environmental projection (which 10 years ago was reserved for only churches with massive tech budgets) are a rising trend.

For those churches still in the 4:3 screen mode, here’s some help to show your leadership how 16:9 (or wider) is where you need to be. I’ve included some very basic examples below (thanks to ProPresenter, a favorite of mine) to help serve as visual examples of my now decade-old advice to churches.

4:3 aspect ratio song lyrics from “Revelation Song”

16:9 aspect ratio song lyrics from “Revelation Song”

16:9 aspect ratio, lower-third overlay song lyrics from “Revelation Song”

Widescreen can be wider than 16:9 aspect ratio and be used as stage backdrops in addition to song lyrics display. Edge-blending projectors is a rising trend in churches.

A before-and-after of environmental projection from my good friend Camron Ware at

Just for grins, I’ve copied-and-pasted part of the original article below, including the very ugly graphics I used to illustrate my point. (Oy vey!)

How is your church displaying song lyrics?  Share your comment below or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter with your ideas or questions.


Excerpt from my original article from 2002.

There is a mindset that the 16:9 aspect ratio is primarily for video. More specifically, that it is for Home Theatres almost exclusively. I wanted to offer my insight on an application where 16:9 should be used nearly all the time: churches.

Probably the most often used function of a projector in church auditoriums today is for song lyrics. I’ve been in literally hundreds of churches and have seen a common problem with the 4:3 aspect ratio for these song lyrics: It doesn’t read the way it sings. Allow me to explain.

While the type of songs and the style of music may be widely different, the basic verse and chorus structure remains about the same. Here is an example:

 4:3 Lyrics

4:3 Lyrics

4:3 lyrics can’t be sung like they’re typed

Now, the same song in 16:9 not only takes one less screen, but the breaks at the end of the sentences are typed like it is sung. For people visiting a church for the first time, a common problem is not knowing the songs, which can make these guests uncomfortable – and may even make them feel awkward for not singing along. With the 16:9 version though, the song “sings” the way it “reads” on the screen thereby allowing someone who doesn’t know a song to join right in with the long-time members in singing along.

16:9 Lyrics




  1. Please comment on using what used to be called “bastard type” in displaying lyrics on the screen. For example: three different sizes of the same type face on one line of type … a capitalized word in every line of type, with a smaller size (caps and lower case) on one side of the all-capitalized word and a larger size (caps & lower) on the other side of the all-capitalized word.

    In marketing seminars I attended several years ago, this was a no-no. Yet, I’ve noticed a couple of churches are doing this now, and it seems so awkward.

    • Jerry,

      While I could quote the AP Style Guide or even the Yahoo Web Style Guide, the reality is that there are no rules when it comes to lyrics on the screen. As you correctly point out, ‘bastard type’ is a no-no to print and web professionals and I hold to the opinion that those same standards should apply to church lyrics most of the time.

      However, I think there is the possibility for creative use of the screen as a canvas, allowing for text and imagery to be moved, sized and even justified (full left and right or full right, ragged left and vice versa). The use of text, for example, in negative space may require formatting not used in most other scenarios. One of my favorite “lyric” rules is to try and display the song lyrics in a line fashion that follows the “singing” of the words. This can be literally a song typed with even one word per line if that is the pause/break in the song and how the verse/chorus is sung. Something that breaks all kinds of style rules is one of my favorites: using forward slashes to denote pauses in a song, yet using the most of the screen real estate by typing across the entire screen. This is very effective in lower-thirds text where space is really at a premium.

      I’ll be launching a multi-part series on the use of songs lyrics, videos, imagery and loops very soon. I think you’ll find your question more than answered (and possibly have new questions!) when it’s through.

      Blessings and thanks much for your comment/question. I love ’em!




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