Loops and Tracks
Part I: INTRO TO PADS IN WORSHIP
Leading God’s people in worship is an awe-inspiring privilege, especially when surrounded and supported by a group of gifted musicians! Some leaders are blessed to be able to consistently rely on a core group of worship musicians to create huge sounds and atmospheres to support worship, but most of us don’t always have that luxury. And that’s ok! Offering what we have is real and authentic, whether that be with a 10-piece worship team or unplugged with a single guitar. But if you feel like you want to explore incorporating other sounds and techniques into your worship leading, there are great options at our disposal!
This is an interesting time to be a worship leader simply because of the sheer amount of technology and resources that are available to help us in creating the best sounding worship support with the least amount of distraction. Over the next few issues of this publication, we are going to be looking at various techniques and technologies that have the potential for making your team sound bigger and fuller than they are. We’re going to be looking at incorporating pads, in-ear monitors, stereo tracks, and multitracks in our worship leading.
Pads in worship are not anything new or groundbreaking. For decades, keyboardists have been playing drawn out chords or drone notes using a string, synth, or choir setting on their keyboards in various worship applications. It creates an atmosphere, or a base, for other instruments to build on. It’s definitely not necessary, but it can make a big difference by filling out the sound, which may help you play less and better achieve the feel you are going for. Not everybody has a keyboard player who can cover this part, but the good news is that this is easy to do with some simple technology that most would already have.
To do this, you will need 3 things:
1. Worship pad loop files.
2. A device to play audio files (cell phone, tablet, computer).
3. A way to connect your device to the sound system.
Prep your files
There are many sites online where you can download pre-recorded worship pads. They come in bundles with all 12 major keys so that whatever key you are playing in, there is a corresponding pad. Pads are also really long files, most of them more than 10 minutes long so that you don’t have to worry about looping them mid song. Most of the bundles you download are available pretty inexpensively, but there are a few that offer free pads as well, such as churchfrontpads.com. When you download these files, you can load and play them back through any mobile device.
Set up your device
Once the pad files are on your audio device (mobile phone, tablet, computer), you need to connect your device to the sound system or speaker. Typically, this technique works best when you can play these pads through the same sound system you are using for your guitar and vocal microphone, but you can run them through a separate speaker as well. To connect to a sound system, you’ll need a 3.5mm (1/8th inch) to 1/4 inch Y cable and a direct box.
The 3.5mm side of the cable connects to the headphone output of your device, and the ¼ inch side of the cable connects to the ¼ inch input of the direct box. For pads, you will only connect one of the two ¼ inch ends to the input of the direct box. It doesn’t matter which end you choose, but the unused end just hangs free. Then you’ll connect the output of the direct box to an input channel of your mixer with a standard XLR mic cable.
Pads in worship are intended to sit low in the mix; they don’t have to be very loud to be effective. They are supposed to just fill the empty space. Using the simplest set-up (pad files playing through mobile phone), you can simply start the pad track (most pad tracks will come with a fade in), and then begin the song like normal. Because pads have no rhythm or arrangement (meaning they just hold variations of the same chord throughout), you don’t have to worry about keeping in time with them or losing your place. They simply support you.
Pads are also great to cover transitions between songs. Let’s say you are finishing Cornerstone in C and you are transitioning into O Praise the Name, also in C. Using a pad in C would be a perfect way to bridge the gap between the two songs which might buy you a second or two to get the next tempo in your head before you begin. As well, since the pad files are usually more than ten minutes in length, you don’t have to worry about restarting the pad.
Take it to the next level
In the simplest case, you can run pads through your phone or tablet and let a sound person control the volume, but you can take this technique to the next level by adding a volume pedal in between your phone/tablet and the direct box. This will allow you to gradually fade in the pad and control how loud you need it to be at any given point. Sometimes you need it to really fill the room in the drop after a big bridge, but you don’t need it that loud to transition to the next song. A volume pedal (like an Ernie Ball VP Jr), can let you make musical decisions as you incorporate the pad into your worship leading. In this instance, the ¼ inch end of the Y cable will connect to the input of the volume pedal, and a separate ¼ inch (instrument cable) will connect the output of the volume pedal to the input of the direct box.
This is just a brief rundown of how you can fairly easily incorporate pads into your worship leading, but the best way to really get a handle on this technique is to see it in action. A search on YouTube for “Using pads in worship,” will generate a great list of tutorial videos on this topic. In the next part of this series, we will look at taking the next steps to using tracks in worship.
Contemporary Music Specialist
USA Southern Territory