The Digital Purchaser’s Guide to Choral Music

The Digital Purchaser’s Guide to Choral Music

If you are a church music director who likes to shop for choral music online, this guide is for you!

Some companies are working to make it easier for you to buy choral music online. Some are only making a token effort. This report card rates the good, the bad, and the in-between.

MUSIC SELECTION: 5 Stars
FEATURES: 4 Stars
EASE OF USE: 3 Stars
OVERALL RATING: 4 STARS
PROS:
  • Brentwood-Benson provide a variety of styles with a deep catalog of popular song titles.
  • Once you’ve created an account and are logged into the site, access is free to PDF previews and complete audio samples.
  • PDFs conveniently open in a new window.
  • Audio links allow you to hear complete songs, not just excerpts.
  • When a recently released title includes DVD accompaniment, Brentwood typically provides a YouTube link to preview the DVD footage.


CONS:

  • When previewing a collection, there’s no option to simply start the audio playing and hear the entire thing as you follow along with the PDF. You have to constantly navigate between the product page and the PDF to start each song individually.
  • Every time you close your browser, you’ll be logged out of the site regardless of cookie settings. Just be thankful for browsers that will save login passwords.

Word

MUSIC SELECTION: 5 Stars
FEATURES: 3 Stars
EASE OF USE: 2 Stars
OVERALL RATING: 3.3 STARS

PROS:

  • Word offers links to view PDF versions of their newest releases.
  • Audio links play complete song previews.
  • Word has a vast catalog of music covering a wide scope of styles.
  • As long as you have an account with Word and are logged in, access to PDF versions of new releases is free.

CONS:

  • PDF links are programmed to open in the same browser window. If you want to hear the music at the same time you’re viewing the PDF, you have to navigate back and forth (or remember to use right-click to open the PDF in a separate window).
  • The link to preview the PDF could easily be missed, since it’s located in the section of the site where you would order product.
  • Word’s search function is very slow to return results and is sometimes inaccurate. (It failed to return a link to one particular collection after I searched using the exact title, for example.)
  • PDFs are slow to download, and sometimes won’t download at all.

MUSIC SELECTION: 1 Stars
FEATURES: 4 Stars
EASE OF USE: 4 Stars
OVERALL RATING: 3 STARS
PROS:
  • Peck Music Publishing is the only choral company I’ve found that offers a way to both view and hear an arrangement with a single click. When you start one of their video demos, the printed music is displayed in sync with the audio so you can see it exactly as a singer would see it.
  • No login is required to preview Peck’s music.
  • Rehearsal tracks for parts (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) are free.
CONS:
  • Peck’s catalog appears to be limited to songs owned by their publishing company.
  • Peck doesn’t sell collections, only anthems and other single song sheet music.

MUSIC SELECTION: 5 Stars
FEATURES: 1 Stars
EASE OF USE: 1 Stars
OVERALL RATING: 2.3 STARs
PROS:
  • Lifeway is a one-stop shop. They offer their own line of choral products, plus they sell many titles from Word, Brentwood, Lillenas, PraiseGathering, etc.
  • For many of their own titles, LifeWay provides audio and/or video previews.
 
CONS:
  • Lifeway offers no PDF previews.
  • Audio clips are incomplete, usually just one-minute in length.
  • The Lifeway choral site is part of the larger Lifeway website, so search results are not limited to choral titles. Multiple results may come back for the same title also, since Lifeway’s search engine returns results for every type of product under that title.

Lillenas

MUSIC SELECTION: 4 Stars
FEATURES: 2 Stars
EASE OF USE: 1 Stars
OVERALL RATING: 2.3 STARS
PROS:
  • Audio clips of complete songs are provided on Lillenas’ website.
  • Lillenas has an excellent back catalog with many titles more than 10 years old still in print.
CONS:
  • Lillenas provides no PDF previews or any other way to see the music before you buy it.
  • Orders for physical product can’t be placed through the Lillenas website. They kick you over to Lifeway’s website.

Phil Cross Choral

MUSIC SELECTION: 1 Stars
FEATURES: 2 Stars
EASE OF USE: 2 Stars
OVERALL RATING: 1.7 STARS
PROS:
  • Audio clips of complete songs are provided on the Phil Cross Choral website.

CONS:

  • Phil Cross Choral provides no PDF previews or any other way to see the music before you buy it.
  • If my math is correct, Cross only offers 15 anthems and one musical.

 


MUSIC SELECTION: 3 Stars
FEATURES: 1 Stars
EASE OF USE: 1 Stars
OVERALL RATING: 1.7 STARS
PROS:
  • Audio clips are provided on PraiseGathering’s website.
CONS:
  • PraiseGathering charges $69.99 per year for access to their complete digital previews just as if it were a traditional choral club where you’d receive music books and CDs by mail. 
  • Audio clips on PraiseGathering’s website are just one-minute previews. If you fork over the cash for their club, you’ll receive a PDF newsletter twice per year with links embedded to view other PDFs of the music and play the audio.
  • The audio is choppy, and the PDF’s take forever to download, if they ever download at all.
  • Orders for physical product can’t be placed through the Praise Gathering website. They kick you over to Lifeway’s website.
Category Church Music

David Bruce Murray

David Bruce Murray is a church music director in Ellenboro, NC. He is the author of Murray's Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music and the owner of both SGHistory.com and MusicScribe.com. David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.

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1 Comment

  1. Samuel
    Reply January 14, 20:38 #1 Samuel

    A couple other good sources are RevivalSong ( http://www.revivalsong.com ) and Rejoice Music ( http://www.rejoicemusic.com ). They’re geared more toward conservative churches, but their material is also good if you’re just starting out.




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