Adding an ambient pad to your worship team’s sound is becoming more and more common. Many worship leaders celebrate using pads because it’s an easy, turn-key way to add a depth of sound to your worship team’s instrumentation without adding a team member or learning complex new technology.
Pads create a “musical safety net” that affords worship leaders the freedom to focus less on the details and more on leading well. Pads are an amazingly effective, low-cost, easy-to-use resource.
Those who are inexperienced with pads, however, tend to have a common question:
“Won't a continual pad-drone clash with the worship team, especially when they change chords? And if it’s always playing, won’t the pad make everything sound muddy?”
Part of the answer has to do with the quality of the pad sound you’re using, but the majority of the answer has to do with where your pads sit in your worship mix.
First, a good pad sound should be designed to sit underneath your worship team’s sound, not on top of it. You want to ensure the pad isn’t one of the loudest things you hear in the mix. Quite the opposite, in fact: it should be one of the quietest!
When in doubt as to how loud the pad should be in your mix, start by taking the volume of your pads channel all the way down to zero. Then start increasing it slowly, and once you’re able to “hear” the pad in relation to the rest of the instruments, then bring it back down a couple decibels.
Why is this?
By nature, pads aren’t designed to be “attention getters” in your mix, but instead be the “sonic glue” that creates an ambient atmosphere, makes your team sound more full, and eliminates awkward dead space in between songs.
Start with the pad at zero-volume and slowly work your way up, instead of starting with it loud and working your way down.
A good pad should fill the sonic space in the background without drawing attention to itself and overtaking the other instruments.
Having the pad at the right volume will help you avoid “chord clash” with the rest of the team. And make sure you get good pad sounds that avoid clashing notes and don’t sound “static” or unmoving.
Another thing to make sure pads don’t make your mix sound “muddy’ is to assess what other instruments are being played and what parts of the frequency range they take up.
Most pads (like Coresound Pads, for instance) are treated with care to make sure certain frequency ranges are avoided so you don’t have to perform audio-surgery on them in order to make the pad fit your mix. And if you have a small worship team (2-3 instruments), you'll likely have no problem with your mix sounding “muddy”, since the pad will be filling frequency space that other instruments aren’t occupying (and thus creating “mud”).
If you have a larger worship team and want to add pads to your sound, some simple filtering of the lower and higher frequencies on the pad will go a long way.
Filtering out the lower frequencies will ensure the pad doesn’t get in the way of the bass guitar or the lower octaves of your piano/keyboard.
Filtering out the higher frequencies can help curb how bright the pad sounds (the more high-frequency you cut, the “warmer” a sound will be).
There is no one-size-fits-all answer for how much filtering or EQing you need to do for each pad, since every team size varies, and there are many different types of pad sounds available (from bright to warm, subtle to distinct, etc). Just be mindful of filtering out some lower (and potentially higher) frequencies if you have a larger team so the pad can sit better in the mix.
Also, the best pad sounds out there will have already taken filtering and EQing into mind and will provide you with amazing pad sounds that you have to do very little to in order to make your worship team sound great. But it’s always good to know how to do those small tweaks that can go a long way.
Pads can be a meaningful, effective resource for your worship team, and with a couple small tips & tricks, you’ll have the pads sitting in the perfect place in your mix every time!
This post was provided by Mike Graff, chief creative at Coresound. Learn more about Mike and using pads for worship at Coresoundpads.com.
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