If you’re trying to choose the right pads that add atmosphere to your worship team’s sound, they may all look the same to you.
“Play in any key, in any tempo, for any song.”
“Use on your phone, tablet, laptop, etc.”
But are all ambient pads the same? Short answer: No. No, they are not. But maybe the obvious “no” isn’t as obvious as it seems. Many people buy pads and wind up disappointed they weren’t as amazing-sounding as they had hoped for, souring the idea of pads being a genuine asset for their worship team in the first place.
The truth is this: pads successfully provide a rich ambient sonic texture for thousands and thousands of worship teams worldwide. But, that doesn’t mean every pad out there will leave you satisfied with how it sounds in your mix.
So, what do you need to look for to find pads that will work best with your worship team?
1. Look for pads that have been expertly post-produced (mastered) to ensure it will not get in the way of your instruments and make the mix sound less appealing. A good ambient pad should be inspiring and gorgeous, created to fill the atmosphere around your other instruments. It should not take up the same frequency-space as the instruments you’re already playing, creating a “muddy” sound.
Some pads sound great when played all by itself, but when played underneath other instruments (like they’re meant to be used!), they tend to get in the way, frequency-wise. This defeats the purposes of pads entirely. Pads should be designed to support your music, not muddy your mix!
So how do you find a well-produced pad? Get your guitar or keyboard out and play along with a demo pad (most pad creators have a free demo or sample). You’ll quickly hear if the pad gets in the way of your sound, or if the pad supports your sound. You want to go with the creators who build pads that support your sound, hands-down.
2. Look for pads that don’t draw too much attention to themselves.
Pads should be designed to play a “background role” and support the rest of your worship team. Pads should not be the most obvious sound you hear in the mix! Some pads have so much movement and changes (in pitch, frequency, and/or volume level) that they draw attention to themselves and distract the worship leader and the congregation. You don’t want the pad to overtake your sound – you want the pad to act as the ambient glue that holds the rest of your sound together. Small details like subtle melodies and volume swells can bring a new layer of beauty to a pad sound, but there is such a thing as “too much melody”.
3. Look for pads that organically move, instead of a stagnant single sound.
Have you ever tried to hold a sustained keyboard note as long as you could? It sounds great for a short while, but then the sweetness disappears and the last thing you want is to ever hear that same sound again! Some pads don’t do much movement-wise. They can sound nice when played… for about 15 seconds. But with no variation in the sound, stagnant pads make the whole mix feel monotonous and boring.
You want to find pads where the creators labored over every second of content to ensure the pads aren’t just “filling space”, but are musically appealing and truly enhance the music.
Now go find some great pads that don’t muddy your sound, draw too much attention to itself, or sit stagnantly. Avoid these three pitfalls, and you’ll be well on your way to using pads as a phenomenal atmosphere-creating resource for your worship ministry.