You’ve probably heard other people talk about using “pads” (also known as “pad loops”, “ambient pads”, “drones”, etc.) to fill in their worship team’s sound.

The idea is this: pick a pad sound you like, choose the appropriate key for your song, and let the pad (which continually plays in the root key) help your worship team instantly sound full and polished. While it may sound like a novel idea to some, you might be asking yourself, “Are pads really that great? How do pads actually help?”

Here’s a list of five ways pads can instantly help your worship team.

1. Pads help small worship teams sound big without adding more people.
It’s always good to add more members to your worship team, but what if there aren’t any? What if you’re in a bind on a Sunday when someone got sick at the last minute? Simple solution: turn on pads, and they’ll fill your worship team’s sound in all the right places. You’re guaranteed to have a full sound, no matter how many team members there are.

2. Pads fill the dreaded “dead space” in between songs.
Dead space is awkward. It can distract your congregation quicker than just about anything else. What’s the easiest solution? Let a pad continue to play once you’re done with a song. You can let the pad play by itself, or you can lightly improvise on top of it with your lead instrument. Either way, you’ll kill the dead space and avoid the awkwardness! Once you’re ready for the next song, gently fade another pad (in the key of the next song) into place and you’ll have a seamless transition from one song to the next.

3. Pads give you room for spontaneity.
When a pad is playing in between songs on your setlist, you have more freedom to respond how God is leading because the pad is providing a musical backdrop for you. Take a moment to pray, repeat a section from the previous song, share Scripture, spontaneously sing, etc. – the sky’s the limit!

4. Pads free your keyboard player from playing the pad-patch themselves.
Perhaps you already have someone playing a pad patch on a keyboard. Is there any chance the keyboardist would like to do something else besides holding pad chords for a really long time? Using pads frees your team member to do other creative & meaningful things with their instrument. They’ll likely thank you for it!

5. Pads allow leaders to focus on leading instead of on the details.
It can be easy to get distracted by all the things that need to happen during a worship service. Pads provide a musical “safety-net” so you become less distracted by hollow sound and dead space, and can now focus more on worshiping the Lord and leading others in the worship of Him. Pads not only help the congregation stay in the moment, they help you stay in the moment too!

There are a lot of worship teams that deal with these same issues as you. But be encouraged – pads are a simple, easy solution to help you conquer many of these issues instantly!

9 COMMENTS

  1. Great article. I just have one quesiton. Your article says, “continually plays in the root key.” I’ve been involved in music and worship teams solidly for years and years. I’ve heard of root notes and tonic chords, but what is a root key? Never heard that term before. Is this saying that you play the tonic note (C in the key of C) right throughout the song? I’d appreciate some clarification please. Thanks. God bless.

    • a root key is a note that is common to the chords played in the key of the song. So when you set pads to the root key G the key of the song is G. Sometimes it sounds a bit dissonant, but it fits.

    • The idea is that pads are not “progression specific”. If you are playing a pads in the key of C, then any chord that fits the key of C (C,Dm,Em, etc) will blend well with the pads.
      Find the key of the song, play a pad in that key, and you will be good (so long as you don’t change key in the middle of the song).

  2. Any recommendations for what equipment we can use for this? I lead worship from a keyboard and would be nice if I could have a pad that I didn’t have to constantly be mindful of on my keyboard. Are there smaller, independent devices that do this, that I could give to one of my other band members?

  3. Good article. NOTHING more boring and a waste of time to me, is playing a pad with one finger when I could be filling in more on keys. Love the PADS being run automatically. As to the awkward silence between songs…there are always two sides. A quote comes to mind “Music is the silence between the notes”. Sometimes in the silence God speaks.

  4. Showing my age and my particular worship environment and training, but I have no idea what you’re talking about in reference to “Pads”. Can you offer a more thorough explanation, and maybe a video or audio link so I can hear what you’re talking about? I’m not trying to be critical; I would like to learn!

  5. I’m confused. I thought “pads” was just a keyboardist playing a pad sound… but in #4, you indicate otherwise. So who is playing these “pads”? What instrument are they running off of?

    • We run pads (we call them Drones) off a Mac laptop running Mainstage. You could use Ableton Live, you could even use an iPod or phone. Our pads are mp3 files, and we just have them set to endlessly loop.
      We like the control that Mainstage gives us, allowing us to change keys (switch to different pads) as well as adding shimmer reverb and high and low pass filters to control the sound. Ableton Live and other software solutions should also be able to achieve these things.

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