Musical shortcuts

This year, our church used Willow Creek Community Church’s “God With Us” program as a basis for our Christmas Eve services. The resource they created is outstanding. We used a lot of it.

However, there were a few challenges…

After all, Willow is a church of 20,000+ people. We knew we would have to scale the program down to be appropriate for our size and our culture.

Another thing was that we had to change the music to what fit our church.

  • Our worship leaders are more baritones than tenors. This meant most of the music had to have the keys changed.
  • We also gave freedom to our worship leader to use his own arrangements. Thus, the string arrangements needed to be redone because the Willow arrangements had different chords.
  • And lastly, we added our own music, which meant there were no string arrangements and some had to be created.

Thankfully, we had a smashing string quartet. Daniel, the cello player, attends our church and is a regular on our worship team. Megan, my daughter, played violin at last year’s Christmas Eve services. She drafted her friends Ariel and Albin to play too. We were so blessed by such an outstanding quartet. They were all really good musicians!

Ok, check, string quartet was in place. Now it was time to work on the music.

Enter Finale music software.

I can say nothing but good things about this software. It has come a long way since I started using it in 2000. The last version I had was 2004. This meant that I jumped 8 years ahead when I got Finale 2012!

It is amazing how things stay with you, though. I remembered how to use functions of the software after all these years. Keyboard shortcuts came to mind that I didn’t even know I knew. Even so, I felt like a beginner…just scratched the surface on the software’s capabilities!

One of the things I loved the most was that I could scan in the music and it would convert all the music into editable notes! (It did lose the articulation symbols, lyrics, and chords, which I had to add in later.) This saved me days of work!

The other thing that was pretty awesome was that I could create a score of all the instruments and it would break out individual parts for each musician. For example, we decided to do the song, “Our God,” (the Lincoln Brewster version) and I listened to the recording and transcribed the string parts and invented some others. After entering all the music in Finale, the music looked like this:


Finale then split up the piano score into four parts for the string quartet. There were a few errors, which I was easily able to fix. Now there was a line for each instrument. (They call it “exploding parts.”)


Then Finale output each part on its own sheet. (“Printing parts”)


Soooo awesome!

Megan was a big help too. She is taking AP (Advanced Placement) Music Theory and part of what they have to do during class is listen to what the teacher is playing on the piano and write it down on paper. Doesn’t hurt that she also has perfect pitch. (Jealous. :-))

So I asked her to listen to the last part of the song with the strings and Scripture reading and she charted that out for me. So awesome to have such a musically talented daughter.

I did cheat, though. For two of the songs there were only a few chords that changed, so I just used good ole’ whiteout and wrote in the new notes. More hours saved. Not the neatest, but it worked!



And then the string quartet figured out how to actually play the music and I just got to enjoy their rehearsal!


A Yee

Angela Yee is a professional designer (graphic design, stage design, interior design — and teaches leadership skills at

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  1. Carmen Lin - December 31, 2012

    Well, after all these years I have not known that Megan has perfect pitch until now! All my life I have only personally known 2 people with perfect pitch. Undoubtedly God has given her a great gift. I do hope she uses it to her best ability to glorify the Giver!

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