Thinking about introducing ambient pads to your worship team’s sound but don’t know where to begin? Read on for all the ins and outs of getting started with pads, and you’ll be using them to transform your worship service’s atmosphere in no time.
All you’ll need are three things: the pads themselves (audio files), some device to play the pads on (phone, tablet, or computer), and something to connect your pad-playing device to your mixing console.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: the pad audio files themselves. If you haven’t purchased a bundle of pads from Coresound or a third-party pads creator before, it’s good to know what you actually receive once you make that purchase. You will typically download a folder of audio files (or a ZIP file that will “unzip”, turning into the aforementioned folder) that has twelve files in it – one for each of the 12 keys your songs are in. The audio files are typically MP3 or WAV files, and are anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes in length.
You will want to transfer these audio files into a central location where you keep your music library (I suggest iTunes or something similar). Most pads come with “metadata” so that when you import them into a music-library app, it will organize the files appropriately.
When you want to create an actual setlist for a worship service, however, having all of your pads in all 12 keys on whatever device you’re using for playback (phone, tablet, etc.) isn’t usually necessary. In fact, it may be necessary to keep most of the pads OFF of your playback device if the device has a limited amount of storage space! I always recommend making a playlist with the pads you’ll need in the correct keys, and transferring only those files to your phone or tablet (using whatever normal method you use to transfer audio files to your device).
NEXT UP: time to play those pad files. There are unlimited options to choose from when looking for software/apps that can play pads. Why is that? Because ambient pads are simply audio files, meaning they can be played in any app that allows you to play an audio file. There’s a good chance you have one (or several) piece(s) of software that could play pads already on your device.
One thing you’ll want to search for specifically is a music-player app that can allow you to fade between pads with ease, so you don’t create any abrupt transitions when going from one pad to the next. We’ve created the Pads Live app (available on iOS – Android coming soon) to support global crossfading, meaning you can’t ever go to a new pad sound without some type of fade, saving you the headache of choppy transitions!
LASTLY, you need to find a way to connect the pads-playing device to your mixing console. This can be done lots of ways and is rather easy (and cost-effective). All you need is an 1/8” to 1/4” cable! Seriously! If you can reach the mixing console with your 1/8” to 1/4” cable, plug the 1/8” end into your device’s headphone port and plug the 1/4” end into your mixing console. If you aren’t close to the console, simply plug the 1/4” end of the cable into a direct box, which is what you’re already using to plug your acoustic guitar or keyboard in to your mixing console. (Make sure you have an extra direct box dedicated for running pads, as well as an extra microphone cable to connect the direct box to the mixing console.)
Once you’ve connected everything up, 99% of your work is done! All you’ll need to do is turn the volume up until you can hear the pads, then notch it back down to the point where you can still hear them but their volume level is underneath the rest of your team. Turn them up enough so they fill the ambient atmosphere nicely, but turn them down enough so they don’t get in the way of your other instruments.
One of the things Coresound prides ourselves on is making sure we mix and master the pads perfectly so you don’t have to do a bunch of stuff on your mixing console to get the pads to sound great. You should make sure the pads have enough of the bass/low end rolled off so it doesn’t get in the way of your lead instruments.
Also, make sure to try different pad sounds behind your team for the same song. Sometimes a warmer, subtler pad works really well, but sometimes a brighter, more distinct pad brings out the energy that’s needed for certain songs. But make sure you take time to try different sounds and find the best fit, the same way you try to find the best sounds with your effects pedals, the best-sounding strings for your guitar, etc. – experiment and make it your own!
It truly is amazing how much of an impact on your worship team’s sound pads can have in an instant – you can literally change your entire worship team’s sound by this coming Sunday with pads, and it takes very little effort. By taking the steps in this article to get started using pads, you are one step closer to transforming your worship service’s atmosphere.