Hey guys! A few times lately I’ve had other local worship leaders asking me about pads and how to run them! So I thought I’d give an overview on how I do it. It’s easy! And adds so much to your live sound. There are multiple ways it can be done but I’m going to touch on the method I use and am familiar with.
So lets start out with a quick definition. Pads are a musical element you add to your sound that fills out the empty spaces and contributes a bit of texture and an ambient, spacious feel that undergirds the live instruments. Pads are great as a bridge between songs, and can even stand alone for part of a song. Listen to the opening passage of Hillsong’s live version of What A Beautiful Name. The only thing you’re hearing there in accompaniment to Brooke’s lovely voice is pad. For each song in your set you pick the sound you want, – some are warm and mellow, others more bright and sparkly, etc – and the key you’ll be in and you’re good to go!
Ok so how to do it? Like I said before there are different ways it can be done and different sources for the pad sounds. I’ve got friends who use their laptop and run pads through a program like Ableton or even iTunes. One of my friends has the skills and the tools to create his own. Whatever. haha! I use Coresound and run the pads on my iPhone or iPad using their app: Pads Live. The app is free but you purchase the pads. You don’t have to use the app. Their pad loops can be run using a variety of programs and devices if you prefer. Here’s a link to their website for all of the deets.
Now let’s look at the tools and how I set up on stage. It’s pretty simple. In addition to my iPhone I also have:
a mic stand mount for my phone. Not necessary but preferable for me. I bought one on Amazon for like $15. Literally puts my phone at my fingertips.
a direct box to plug into. In my case I use two direct boxes, one for my acoustic guitar and the other for my phone for running pads.
a male-to-male cable with a 1/4in on one end for the direct box and an 1/8in on the other to plug into the headphone jack on your phone.
I also generally like to plug my phone in to power, so always keep on hand a lightning cable, adapter and extension cord.
And that’s it! The pad should be mixed in the House in such a way that it accompanies and complements. You don’t want it so loud that it overpowers. As far as setting up and using the app, I found it to be pretty intuitive. You add songs, selecting the pad sound and the key you want for each, then create a playlist (setlist) and add your songs! Then from within the set you press play to start the first song. When you’re ready for the next song all it takes is a single touch. In settings you can turn on the crossfade feature if you want, so you don’t get dead space between songs. The Coresound website has FAQ’s and tutorials available if you want to check it out.
I hope that’s helpful! We use pads with full band and I’ve also used them on my own with my guitar, and everything in between. They really are a great tool and easy to incorporate into your sets, and add quite a bit of depth and polish to your overall sound.
~ Lord bless you as you seek to serve Him and His people with excellence! Michelle
Hi you guys! I’m suuuper stoked this week as we complete final preparations to lead worship at a women’s conference where I was invited to join my worship pastor and some friends of ours in leading worship for some precious sweet sisters. These godly guys are super talented and I’m so excited to be joining them!
If you’re a worship leader then you know there is a ton of work that goes into preparing to lead. I’m not talking about all of the considerations that go into song selection. That’s critical and there’s lots to unpack there so I’ll leave it for another conversation. But after the songs are chosen there’s a lot of prep and planning that should take place so that, when the time comes, we can lead effectively and with excellence. For this weekend, as I won’t be on my guitar for this one, I’ve had more time than normal to really focus on the lyrics and vocals, and am reminded once again how important that part of the process is to effective leadership. I also know that it can tend take a back seat to other pieces of the process! At least I can be guilty of that. There can be so much to do in regards to: logistics, communicating with and preparing resources for the band and tech teams, rehearsing/learning melody lines, determining tempos and working with the click, deciding on arrangements, then practicing all of that on an instrument, exploring and planning the transitions between songs, rehearsing with the team…..and etc, etc, etc…. All of these things are so important! But what I find is that I can sometimes fail to stop each week and take a fresh look at the lyrics we’ll be singing and leading. Which is such a bummer! Not to mention a lost opportunity. Because let’s face it…as amazing and emotive and dynamic as it can be…the music is ultimately the vehicle. It’s the lyrics and the vocals that really communicate the heart of what’s being said.
We can sing the lyrics accurately and nail the melody lines, but if we’re disconnected from the content and heart of what the song is communicating that will generally come across and can diminish our ability to lead well. Here are a few of my thoughts on ways we can approach the lyrics each time as we prepare to lead God’s people in corporate worship.
Consider this a devotional time and invite the Lord to give you a renewed perspective and clarity on each song’s message.
Print out the lyrics, in particular for the songs where you will be the lead voice (or better yet typing or writing them out.. if you have the additional time). And exclude the chords and other musical notations. We just want the lyrics.
Now read the lyrics. Don’t sing them. Just read them. Out loud even if you’re able. I know this sounds elementary but what can happen with songs we know very well is that over time we become desensitized to their meaning. So read through them slowly and intentionally, not by rote. This is partly why removing the melody is important. That will force us to view the lyrics entirely on their own, outside of the musical context. Take your time and ponder the words and truths being expressed! And thank the Lord while you’re doing it!
Re-read the lyrics with your Bible handy. For each phrase or section, pause and look for corresponding passages in Scripture, and jot them down next to the lyric lines. This is admittedly time-consuming, at least initially, but sooo worth it. This process has left me in tears on more than one occasion as I’ve sat and been ministered to by the Lord as He has reminded me of the truths in a particular song that I’m preparing to lead. And I’m convinced that this impacts our effectiveness. When we have a fresh understanding of what we’re singing and when we engage with the Lord in that moment in genuine worship, those we are leading can sense that and the Lord uses that to draw them into worship as well. If you do this step regularly, you can keep your notes and refer back to them the next time you lead the same song. (A little side note: There was one time where I knew the lyrics were going to be printed, not projected on a screen, and we included the Scripture references for each song on the printed lyric handouts. I explained this at the start of the service.. and got a lot of great feedback afterward. People appreciated being able to take the lyrics and corresponding Scriptures home with them for their own personal devo time.)
Prayerfully consider ways you might reinforce the truths you’re singing during the service. This might be by adding a related Scripture reading somewhere in the set, or referencing key lyrics as a way of praying or transitioning between two songs or during the interlude of a song. You might also consider a very brief personal story that relates to the lyrical truths in some way that you could use as you intro the service or a particular song. Thinking this through ahead of time is especially helpful if you find speaking in front of people more difficult than singing in front of them. You can plan in advance how you might use or reference the lyrics during those brief moments when you’ll be speaking, so that your words contribute to the worship, rather than detract from it.
I hope these thoughts are helpful! In addition to these planning-phase steps, there are also some things that as vocalists we can do (or avoid doing) during the service itself that impact the effectiveness of our ability to communicate, interact with and lead the congregation. But I’ll save that for another post!
Blessings on you all as you plan and prepare to lovingly lead the people God has placed in front of you!
So what makes a team great? Why do some teams function smoothly and some…well.. not so much? Truth be told there are a LOT of factors that go into the success or failure of a team, and most of those (possibly all of them?) start at the leadership level. But one in particular stands out that strikes me as essential, and yet so often is missing from ministries, and that is the ability on the part of leadership to both craft and communicate a team vision. I understand as Christians that if we’re to be truly successful at ministry then it has to be something the Holy Spirit is involved in, but all too often I’ve seen that used as an excuse to avoid any kind of planning, preparation or training. A verse that comes to mind is Psalm 127:1a, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it;…..”.We see both aspects at play here.. our desperate need for the Lord, and also the need for us to plan and work. Anyone who has ever built anything knows it can’t be done well without careful planning and preparation. All throughout Scripture we see examples of the people of God functioning within a framework of the two…prayer and the moving of the Holy Spirit in combination with vision, planning and hard work. Check out the Old Testament book of Nehemiah to see these and many other leadership principles in action!
Ok. So how do we, as creative ministry leaders, go about crafting a vision for our ministries and teams? What does that mean practically? Here are three basic elements to consider as you (and possibly a few key leaders from your team) work to create a set of unified goals.
What’s our purpose? Or, why do we do what we do? This needs to be specific and goes way beyond simply stating that we lead people in worship. Actually that’s a very brief observation about what we do, or should be doing, but our teams need to understand the why and what it is we’re truly trying to accomplish. You should prayerfully work this out for your team specifically, but here’s what I came up with by way of example: To magnify and delight the LORD; to serve the LORD and His church with creative excellence; to effectively lead in praise & worship through music and the other creative arts, so that everyone in our congregation who wants to join us can do so; to proclaim the truths of Scripture, and to evangelize the lost.
What will ‘success’ look like? This paints out some details on what kinds of results we expect to see if we’re accomplishing our stated purpose. So maybe something like this: As a church family we will grow in our understanding of what it means to live a life of worship, and to worship the LORD in spirit and truth; there will be an increase in the freedom of expression as we corporately engage with the LORD through prayer, scripture and song. As a creative ministry team we will create art of our own that ministers to and expresses the heart of our congregation, and will be continually improving in all aspects of our skills. We will see non-believers come to saving faith in Jesus Christ as we sing and speak the Truth, engage with the community and live out the Gospel in every facet of our lives.
How do we get there? How must we act and what should our priorities be to facilitate success? Defining this is important because it provides a framework for us and for our teams to operate and make decisions from, thereby maintaining progress toward collective goals. For example you might include things like: Everything we say and do, whether from stage or behind the scenes, must line up with the truth of scripture, therefore, frequent and regular times of prayer and Bible study will be a priority for the team as a whole and for each member individually. The congregation’s needs come before our own needs and desires; we will always work to lead in such a way that they are able to follow, and will teach and encourage them to do so. We must be well-prepared and well-practiced, yet able to serve on short notice, therefore we will be committed to putting in the necessary time for practice at home and rehearsal with the band, as well as in general striving toward improvement and the learning of new skills. We will pursue creative endeavors and will encourage one another and cheer one another on wholeheartedly. We will always leave room to welcome new team members as the Lord sees fit to add to our number. We will work alongside, and as needed, defer to requests and priorities from those in authority over us.
Once your team’s vision has been crafted, the next step is to communicate it to them! Teams that have a shared vision that everyone understands and can get on board with are far more likely to be productive and ‘successful’ than teams that are trying to function without any order or understanding of where it is they’re all trying to go. The best way is in person, at a team meeting where everyone is in attendance. I would suggest that you print out copies of your vision in order to facilitate the discussion and also so they can take it home with them. Use inclusive language as you explain it to make it about the team, not about yourself. Each member needs to take ownership of the vision so that it becomes everyone’s goal and purpose, not just yours. Be ready to dialogue and answer any questions they might have… Have fun with it and try to create some energy and excitement surrounding it! Finally, be prepared to continue to prayerfully encourage and coach your team! Maybe even coming up with creative ways to remind each other of the vision and holding one another accountable to it as you serve alongside one another in pursuit of excellence!
Whether you’ve recently taken on the responsibility of leading a ministry, or you’ve been in leadership for awhile and are ready to take your crew to the next level, I hope this encourages you and sparks some great conversations for you and your team! No matter how well our teams are currently functioning, there’s always room for improvement ~ Michelle
What does servant worship leadership look like? I’ve been pondering that a lot this week. Actually I’ve long been interested in the conversation about what genuine leadership is and how to do it well, and I’m blessed to be part of a ministry team that values intentional learning and growth in this area. But this week for some reason my mind keeps going back to this question specifically. What does servant worship leadership look like? In what ways can I, as a worship leader, serve my teams and my congregation as I lead them? I think in particular from stage? On the surface that doesn’t seem like a lowly servant role, and yet I believe that serving others is precisely what Jesus has called us to do.
Jesus taught the phenomenal paradox of servant leadership throughout His ministry, both in word and in deed. Multiple times He told His disciples (and us), that if you want to be great you have to be the least. And if you want to be first, you have to be last. He demonstrated that true leadership encompasses service to others and did so in striking ways, one of the more notable being when He removed his cloak, wrapped Himself in a towel and began to wash the disciples’ feet. They were stunned. They were uncomfortable. Peter was offended. As I re-read the account in chapter 13 of John’s gospel, I am struck by a few observations that I think have application to us as worship leaders.
Be willing to take on menial tasks…… It takes both humility and strength of character to willingly take on a thankless and lowly task like that of washing the disciples’ feet. They didn’t even appreciate it! At least not initially. But it needed to be done. And Jesus was willing to do it for them. Are we as worship leaders willing to do the same? Are we willing to take on the mundane, thankless, yet necessary tasks? Or do we consider ourselves above that? Are we serving tirelessly in the background, when we’re not on stage, to bless and serve those whom God has place on our teams with us?
Be willing to let someone else serve you…. It also takes humility and strength of character to allow someone else do the serving. I’ve realized of late that this is an area in which I struggle. But in v14 Jesus says to the group that they “also ought to wash one another’s feet”. So the example wasn’t for one person only or for the worship leader or worship pastor only, it was for the entire team. If you’re the one in charge of your ministry team then you can and should set the example, and then also allow others to do the same for each other and for you.
Look for teachable moments….. Jesus certainly could have called for a slave to wash their feet and no one would have thought anything of it, and it wouldn’t have been wrong for Him to do that. But as their leader He saw an opportunity to teach and lead by example and He loved them enough to do it. Think for a moment the completely different impact it would have been if, while a slave was washing their feet, Jesus merely told them what He wanted them to know. They would have been much more comfortable with that… but Jesus was more concerned with their growth than with their comfort.
Wash them with the water of the word…. The typically impetuous Peter swings from “no way!” to… “not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” (v8-9) in about 3 seconds flat. Can anybody besides me relate to Peter? Jesus goes on to correct him though and explains in v10 that he doesn’t need his entire body washed. He’s already clean (born again). But he does need his feet washed. As believers we don’t read the Bible to get saved again each day, we read it (among other things) for fresh cleansing and renewal before we head back out into the world. This brought to mind for me the passage in Ephesians 5 where it speaks of ‘washing with the water of the word’. Same idea. There are so many different applications for us as worship leaders. Not only the ways in which we can pour into our teams behind the scenes, but also the awesome responsibility we have of stepping on a stage and leading and serving the people God has placed in front of us. So in light of Jesus’ example and comments in this passage, I think one of the most important ways we can serve our congregations is by being intentional in that what we say from stage, and the lyrics of the songs we choose, are Scripture infused. I’ve long asked myself each time I prepare to lead others in worship, that if for some reason someone hears the worship portion of the service but doesn’t hear the teaching that day, have I by my song selection and by the words I’ve spoken given them the gospel message, and washed them with the Word? When we do that, then I think that we are following Jesus’ example.
Well I’m sure my observations on this barely scratch the surface! If you have any additional thoughts or comments please let me know! May we as worship leaders continue to grow in our skills and in our ability to effectively lead and minister to others. ~ Michelle