Using Backing Pads to Create Atmosphere and Enhance Your Worship Sets

Everybody wants a rich, full sound for their musical worship. And everyone wants smooth worship services that flow from song to song without distraction. But how can we achieve such excellence on a weekly basis? One answer is to utilize backing pads.

What are backing pads? What are the benefits of using them in our worship sets? What are the key qualities of a great backing pad? What are the simple and advanced set-ups needed to run backing pads? We answer all those questions and discuss some advanced techniques, tips, and tricks for using backing pads in worship in this month’s episode.

I truly believe backing pads will transform your worship sets.

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Alex Enfiedjian 00:11 Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the worship leader training podcast. This is Alex Enfiedjian. Your host, just wanted to say thank you so much for being a part of our podcast and for listening every month. I hope that every episode that we release is a blessing to you that it helps you. Honestly, my goal at worship leader training is to create resources that are practical and helpful every single time. I never want to release something that is a waste of your time. So hopefully you’ve been helped. If you want to say thank you, you can help us by leaving us a review on iTunes. We’ve had several really nice reviews lately. And so just thank you for those of you who have left reviews. If you’d like to leave us a review, it helps us get the podcast out to more listeners. You can do it easily by going to worship leader training, comm slash review, worship leader training comm slash review. And you can see step by step instructions on how to leave us a review on iTunes. So that’d be great. If you don’t mind doing that. Today is a great episode we are talking with Mike Graff from core sound pads. Core sound is one of our sponsors on the podcast. And Mike just shares with us why you should consider using pads and honestly, we’re not just going to tell you to use his pads. But this episode is about why you should use pads in general. So this episode is all about using pads to create atmosphere and to enhance your worship sets. Let’s jump right into our interview with Mike craft from core sound pads.

Alex Enfiedjian 01:36 Everybody I am here with Mike Graf, who is the founder and creator of core sound pads one of our recommended products that we just love here at worship leader training. Hey, Mike, thanks for being on the podcast. Hey, so

Unknown Speaker 01:49 glad to be here, Alex. Thanks for having me, man.

Alex Enfiedjian 01:52 Yeah, so I am here with Mike because I started using pads four years ago, not his pads, but a set of pads that I found. And I started using pads and they seriously just transformed the way that my worship sets flow and that my worship experiences and gatherings in our churches felt. And there was a huge benefit that was gained when I started using pads. And I really think that what you’re creating, Mike is offering something really great for our listeners. And I wanted to bring you on to talk about how using pads creates an atmosphere and enhances your worship set. So you’re ready to talk about that.

Unknown Speaker 02:30 Absolutely glad to help, it’s going to be a good conversation.

Alex Enfiedjian 02:34 Awesome. And just so our listeners know, like both Mike and my heart is not to like sell Mike’s product, particularly, although I do believe truly that his product is the best out of the batch, although there are a lot of great ones out there. But really what we’re talking about today is not particularly a product, but the act of using pads in worship and why you should consider doing it. And so I just full disclaimer, you know, like he makes money selling these and I make commission selling these. But it’s not about that, because we want you to find the right pads for you. They might be Mike’s pads at core sound pads, but there are other companies out there. So find the ones that you like best and use those. So there’s just a couple companies that you can check out, you know, there’s worship pad loops, there’s Carl barricade, there’s worship tutorials. So those are some of the other companies you can check out. But obviously, we believe that core sound is my favorite sounding pad. And the fact that you have multiple types, all bundled together is great. And that’s why you know, you and I have a partnership, Mike, because I really believe that yours are the best. So thanks for creating an awesome resource for the church.

Unknown Speaker 03:42 Oh, without a doubt Alex, I appreciate the information man. But I completely agree with you of course and you know, we’re we’re just here to resource the church. It’s not man, the The kingdom of God is not a monopoly rights. You know, we’re we’re family and so. So yeah, I’m just I’m really glad to be in this together with you. And yeah, let’s have some conversation here.

Alex Enfiedjian 04:03 Cool. Well, maybe we can start at the very basics for our listeners who are listening in they’re like, What in the world is a pad? What’s a backing pad? So tell us Mike, what’s a backing pad?

Unknown Speaker 04:12 Yeah, absolutely. So, so just breaking it down to the most basic of terms. A pad is any kind of continuous, atmospheric ambient sound that lies underneath the rest of your instrumentation on your worship teams. So for instance, like you know, a typical worship team has, you know, your guitar player, your you know, perhaps a piano or keys player, your drums, your bass. Now, those instruments are all great for what they do. They’re establishing the chord changes, they’re establishing rhythm, but what what most of them weren’t created to do was to do a good job of sustaining this sound long term, you know throughout the sign, but then enter pads, you know, pads, fill in all the gaps between those They essentially it’s an ongoing kind of sound that that’s in the same key as your song. And it really fills out not only your entire vibe when you’re playing any particular worship song, but also does a great job of killing that awkward dead space in between your songs helping you smooth out rough transitions. And yeah, that’s that’s essentially what a pad is. And to be even a little bit more clear, Alex, the pads that you and I are talking about, you know, perhaps people have heard of pads in the context of how a keyboardist would play a pad, patch, or an electric guitarist would create some sort of ambient pad sound with guitar swells and stuff. The good news is that what we’re talking about isn’t about adding another person to to create these sounds. But instead, we’re talking about actual audio files, pad mp3, if you will, that you can just press play on any device, and it will do that job to add that continuous, lush sound to anything you’re doing. So

Alex Enfiedjian 06:04 and I think our listeners probably have all heard it. Like if you’ve listened to any Hillsong, or elevation church album, you hear that soft, ambient lush pad in the background, kind of like ethereal sound. And so that’s what a pad is, and what you have created and what some of these other companies have created are these mp3 files that sound amazing. And you don’t need somebody up on stage playing the pads because these just play in the background and the root key and sit underneath all of your mix. So now Mike, tell us, that’s what a backing pad is, why should our listeners consider using a backing pad? What are some of the benefits of using backing pads, and I’ll share some of mine after you share some of yours.

Unknown Speaker 06:42 Yeah, that’d be great. And you know, I already probably cheated a little bit and touched base on on a couple of that, but, but some of the main benefits of using a back end pad is that it’s going to fill out your worship team sound, no matter what size team you have, you know, the the average size of church in this country is about 85 people. And so if you take that in consideration, you know, that means that the worship team at that churches is maybe 234 people, sometimes maybe just one person who’s leading on guitar. And so you know, pads do a great job of filling out the sound of that small worship team, without having to be concerned about kidney and another person on the team to fill out that sound, they do a great job of just establishing that atmosphere, but also, a huge benefit for worship teams that are larger, that have more people that show up on a week to week basis, is that instead of having your keyboard is to just play pad sounds, you can trigger these pad mp3 and then free up your instrumentalists to be more of a musician, you know, to actually be more of an artist and they get to they get to play a little bit more to their heart’s content, they get to fill in what they would like to do perhaps a little bit more than if they were to just be the pads player. So so it’s a great resource, no matter what size worship team, you’re looking at, you know, another couple things that that I really appreciate about pads. And you know, I don’t think I’m stretching in saying this that, that with using pads to smooth out the transitions between songs, using pads to kill that awkward dead space as you go throughout the moments of your worship service. As a worship leader, it is my it’s one of my responsibilities. And really, it’s one of my desires to curate this environment of on distracting excellence for our congregation, which means that you know, if I want to encourage people to stay connected to the heart of what God is doing at any given moment, throughout the course of a worship service, one of my job’s is to do my best to remove distractions from that. And let’s be real when you hit that awkward deadspace moment when you hit that rough transition. Even if it’s just a little bit of a distraction, it still happens it just it didn’t go as smoothly as you liked. And that doesn’t mean that people are going to walk out of your worship service. But But if there was a simple solution to just add this smooth capability to transition from song to song without having those awkward moments, why on earth would I not at least give it a shot, right? And so there’s also this level of, of a musical safety net for me because I you know, I don’t just have to keep the worship moving. But I get to enjoy the worship service, I get to not just lead but participate in it when I know that there’s this foundation, I know that there’s this pad that is you know, allowing those awkward dead spaces to disappear to not be a thing that we have to worry about anymore. And we do get to just relax a little bit in the presence of the Lord. So

Alex Enfiedjian 09:58 yeah, that’s huge. I can totally I agree with all those statements. So, like for me, you know, I said, I started using backing pads like maybe four years ago from some other producers of backing pads. And as soon as I started using them, it was like a game changer. For me, it was like, wow, like you said, there’s this safety net, there’s this under bedding where I know that when I end a song, it’s not dead silence and I can kind of we can kind of linger there in those in between moments and pray. When I’m praying, there’s this nice, emotional atmosphere that’s kind of still sustaining. And, you know, one of the surprising benefits for me of backing pads is they actually center me in the key vocally, I never thought about this. But like, when I started using your monitors, like, it was weird for me to adjust to, like, not hearing the room anymore. And so it was like, okay, where’s my pitch exactly supposed to be. And you know, with EQs on your instruments, sometimes it can be a little weird when you’re wearing both ears. But when I put backing pads in the mix, and I started using backing pads in my ears, it really centered me and helped me with my pitch, because it was like the constant root note bed, just I could sit on top of that. And I was like, okay, that’s where I need to be with my voice. And so that was a kind of an unexpected benefit for me using backing pads for the years, but you don’t necessarily need any years to use them. Right? You can push them through wedges as well. So but yeah, so those are some of the benefits of using backing pads. And our listeners are like, okay, I kind of want to try these out. So what should they look for in a good backing pad? Whether it’s yours or some other companies? What makes for a good backing pad?

Unknown Speaker 11:38 That is a great question. There are three measurables that we strive after at at Corazon pads that that I would offer as a measuring stick for for any pad that you would look to try within your worship team. The three things you want to look for is you want pads that support your lead instrument in the mix, not muddy your mix, because what you hear sometimes is, you know, a pad sounds really cool, when you’re checking it on on a website like, Whoa, that sample on Soundcloud was neat. And I want to hear it, you know, within the context of my worship team, and then you you download them and then you start playing your guitar over the top of it, you start playing your keyboard or your piano over the top of it. And you start noticing that a lot of the same frequencies that your guitar hits, or your piano hits, are some of the same frequencies that the pad is hitting, and it just starts to to muddy things up. And so you want to look for pads that support your lead instrument, you don’t want to pad that just kind of swallows up your lead in store, whether you’re a guitar player, keys player, or whatever. So that’s number one. Number two, you want to look for pads that essentially support your entire worship team sound, not drawing attention to itself. And you know, again, like there are a lot of really neat, you know, kind of sparkle sounds or this and that. And I’m not saying that any of that stuff is bad. But, but if it becomes the sort of thing we’re in the mix of your worship team, the pad is grabbing the attention away from for what you try to do, which is add this nice glue this nice foundation to your worship team. And instead, all the attentions go into the path, I would consider that a bad thing. So again, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a whole wide variety of really cool sounds you can use. But you don’t want the pad to be the focal point you want the pad to be the glue for, for your worship team to bring forward these songs. And ultimately, you know, for God to be the focal point of all we do. And then number three, I just got to say it, you want to look for patterns that aren’t boring. You know, I it’s funny, I was at a worship conference A while ago, I will not name names, but I did see someone literally fought to create their pad, if you will, they hit a note on a keyboard. And they put a brick on the sustain pedal of the keyboard and just walked away from it. And then you know, for the next five minutes, it was this single note or whatever. And it just I had to laugh. It was this amazing visual. But really, when you think about it, a drone is is not necessarily a bad thing. But when you don’t treat that sound properly. And when you don’t give it room to breathe through to oscillate or to you know, to move from speaker to speaker to kind of weave some reverb in about a drone can be really distracting because that sound is not going anywhere. It can sound cool for about 30 seconds, but then it’ll just draw all the attention to itself because it is so simple. So again, you want pads that support your lead instrument. You want pads that support your worship team so not drawing attention to itself and you want pads that are not boring. And I think you can find some good ones out there for that. Yeah,

Alex Enfiedjian 14:57 and I would say I would add to that. Like you You don’t want to pad like you said, that just plays one note. But you also you want to avoid pads that have too much movement. Absolutely, I’ve purchased a couple of pad packs from other people that have a lot of movement, there’s a lot of like notes coming in and out. And they don’t always go with the chord changes. And so it sounds bad. So just enough movement is important. That’s what I appreciate about your pads, Mike. And also, you know, one of the things that that I really like about what you’ve done is you’ve created this pad bundle where you’ve got multiple options, multiple sounds, because what I’ve been doing every week, and here’s another story, just encourage you is like, I get into my Ableton Live setup, and I go, Okay, I’m playing this song. And then I go through all your sounds, and I find the sound that best supports the feeling of that moment of that song and I go, okay, that I like the string sound for that song. And I’m going yeah, strings pad, or then I go to the next song, and I go, now I want something a little grittier, I think I’m going to go with the Oregon drone, you know, and so like, I love that you’ve given worship leaders, not just this, like very generic pad sound, but very, you’ve given them multiple specific options. And that’s something that I would encourage worship leaders to look at, because I did not realize, you know, some of the other bundles or other pad companies, it’s like, it’s just one sound in multiple keys. And it’s definitely better than nothing. But you giving me the option to choose, the feeling that I want to convey, has been so much more powerful than I expected it to be, it really adds to the production of that particular song. So, so that’s really cool. So thanks for that. Um, so that’s what they should look for. They buy them, what are some of the simplest ways that someone can set up using a backing pad like that? Let’s say there’s a church of like, 40 people? Yep. What Can somebody do to set up a backing pad in a church of 40? People?

Unknown Speaker 16:54 Absolutely. So I would, there are three really quick ways for that 40 person church, or really, you know, a church of any size up through, you know, a handful of 100 there would be three really quick ways that I would answer that question. Number one, is that that I am positive, that there is someone within that church who owns a phone, there is someone who has a device in their back pocket, that is that is probably created by Apple, or perhaps you know, Samsung, or whoever. And, and it’s fully capable of playing audio, it’s fully capable of playing your favorite worship songs or whoever, whatever artists you’re listening to. And that very same device is also fully capable of plain pads. Because again, all we’re talking about is just these pads not being a person or someone who has to create the sound on stage, but rather, just a simple audio file that you can trigger from any device. So it can be as simple as you downloading these pads to your computer, transferring them to your phone. And then at that point, all you need is to plug your phone into your sound system. So that’s as simple as buying a single cable, like an eighth inch to a quarter inch cable, which costs maybe $4 on Amazon these days. plugging that into a direct box, the very same kind of direct box you plug your acoustic guitar into your plug a keyboard into anything like that. And and then you just send it to your sound system and you mix it just the same way you would mix anything else. The second way I would answer that is probably and this is kind of a an ever increasing way that we see people using pants is with the presentation software that they are using to show the worship lyrics to show sermon notes, any type of videos you’re showing during your your worship service. Little did you know that you can embed audio files into the very first slide of any given song. So we use pro presenter at our church here in Minneapolis. And, and it is as simple as me dragging whatever pad sound I want onto the first slide of every you know, every song in the set, and propresenter will do all the crossfading for me, it’ll do a nice gentle fade in fade out of the previous sound and fade in of the new sound. And and it’s as simple as that. And of course, you know, because we show some videos during our worship services back computer is already plugged into the sound system so so the sound systems already hearing what we’re sending through purpose center. So that means that pads can just show up in the very same way that then all of that audio is coming otherwise. So that would be that and then number three is it you know, for the church that has just that random phone or iPad or iPod that plays their pre service music or their post service music. I would just use that same device to Put the pads in and use whatever app you want to use to do so.

Alex Enfiedjian 20:04 So yeah, you just you create a playlist and you put the pads in the right key in the right order. And then you just, you know, next, next, next, next, next, yeah, bingo, that it’s that simple. That’s cool. And I never heard about the pro presenter thing about crossfading. That’s amazing. That’s cool.

Unknown Speaker 20:17 It’s an unspoken hero, really, it’s a it is something that is just mind bogglingly simple to do. So that’s the simple way that people can get started using pads are there like some more complicated or more professional setups that you’ve seen churches use, there are people who use the, it’s an app for both iOS and for Android, it’s the on song app. So that’s why if you’re using your tablet, for your chord charts, which is a great resource, you can actually connect pads to every particular song. So when you’re flipping through your chord charts, not only will it obviously bring up the new chord chart for the new song, but it will bring in the pad sound that you have assigned to that song, and it will do all that automatically, it’ll crossfade it’ll do everything really gently for you. So that’s a really cool thing where you don’t have to add another device or another program. If you’ve got your iPad on your, you know, on your platform already, because you’re using it for chord charts. That’s a great way to add that. At at our church, we use Ableton for just about everything. We run all of our click tracks and all of our cues through Ableton, we actually we did kind of the Quantum Leap recently, and we use Ableton to do all of our pro presenter automation. So all of those slides are coming at the the exact time that we want them to come in. And it’s super cool. So we love Ableton for all the stuff Ableton can do. But we we use pads in Ableton, where you know, there’s a pad assigned to every song, except when the song is done. So we use Ableton in Arrangement View, typically, and when the song is done, pad will just continue on, you know, as long as you want it to go, you know, it’s a 20 minute audio file, so you can really just go forever, if you want to. And, and then you know, when you’re done with the song, if there’s some sort of transitional prayer or scripture or just, you know, there’s some moment that you want to speak into, you can do that. And then we just set up locators for each new song so that when I use a MIDI foot controller, when I when I fire the trigger for the next song, I’ve just got it set up in Ableton to do a really nice kind of fade out of the previous pad, and then a nice gentle fade in of, of the new one for the new song. And, and that is all, you know, it takes just a little bit to get it set up for the first time, but then you’ve got it all set up, and then you’re you’re good to go for the the duration of however long you’re going to use that song and that set your church so

Alex Enfiedjian 22:53 nice. Oh, I love that, you know, I’m gonna have to have you teach me how to do the crossfade thing, because one of the things that we do is, since there is no crossfade for us, and there might be churches that are doing it on an iPod, you know, and they and there is no crossfade feature when they go to the next track. So here’s something just a little tip, like, what I do is when we crash out on a song or like when we you know, and the song nice and big, like as soon as we wring out the G and it’s still loud, we switch to the next song and so that then we can fade into the next song so you don’t hear the pad cut off. But obviously that’s not the best way. But if you’re using an iPod and or you’re like me, and you’re too lame to figure out how Ableton works then leave man then yeah, so But yeah, that’s a little trick is like switch songs while there’s other instruments playing. And that way you can, you know, get into the next pad sound.

Unknown Speaker 23:43 That’s a great tip. Can I throw a couple other little insider tips at that? Yes. So um, so another tip, if you’re using Ableton, and you’re firing the pads through Session View, which it’s tough to new crossfading in Session View on Ableton, what you can do is add just a touch of reverb to your pad tracks, not a ton of reverb, not a ton, that’s gonna swallow up the pad sound, but you can actually add just a little bit of reverb. So it will, it will when you switch to the new pad, the tail of the previous pab will kind of just gently fade out. So that’s, that’s a little hack right there. But another thing that we see a lot of worship leaders doing is they will actually run the audio from their device instead of directly to the sound system. They’ll run it through a volume pedal first. So they’ll basically take the out on their computer, and then they’ll run it into a volume pedal that’s done at their feet, maybe it’s on their guitar pedal board, maybe it’s just sitting right next to it, but they will control the volume of the pad right from there. And and that’s you know, you still get a lot of manual control over it that way. That’s a really nice feature. But the final thought to throw at that is that there are a bunch of apps that are either very, very cheap, if not free, out there. That will do some really simple crossfading. For you. I know there’s one called worship team director built by the people at Gateway worship that it’s, it’s a bare bones app like it doesn’t do a ton of stuff. It’s really simple, but it will do crossfading of apps for you and it will fade out into silence, it will fade back in from silence. There are some apps called up down, there’s an app called Q, that’s qu e ue, that, again, have some crossfading capabilities and all that stuff that costs maybe a buck or a couple bucks, but But again, the idea is that you find a system that works for you. So like there are a lot of simple hacks and a lot of ways that you can get at it. But that’s the thing, just find the one that works best for you. Like I love your crash out idea, Alex like that, that’s just you know, it’s a simple thing to do. And it’s, it’s the thing that you guys do at your church week in week out. And and there is absolutely nothing wrong with pulling it off the way that you’re doing it. It’s the caveman version. Hey, man, oh, man.

Alex Enfiedjian 26:03 All right, so I’m a cool man. Well, is this something using pads? Is this something people really need to practice before using it for a Sunday? Or is it it’s pretty straightforward, right?

Unknown Speaker 26:13 It is super straightforward, man. This is, you know, we use pads and all of our rehearsals and all that stuff. But if you don’t have time, for a practice, or for rehearsal, or anything like that, if you’re just getting up there, and you’re just running it through real fast, pads are so simple to use. I mean, like, like we’ve talked about pads are a little different than the multi tracks per se, where a multitrack and man, I love multitrack. So I love loops, and stems and, and, and all the stuff that that can do for your service. But when you when you dive into multi tracks, like you’re, you’re on some rails at that point, like you’re okay, here’s where we’re going, here’s how long this is going to take. And I know that there’s a lot of software out there where you can do repeats. And you can do this and that, which is wonderful. But there’s you know, there’s a certain amount of effort and a certain amount of your focus and your attention that you need to throw at a moment like that, or add to run software like that. pads are the opposite of that you press play, and you can just go you know, they’re not bound to the key, or they are bound to key in the sense that, that there is one pad file for each of the 12 keys. So as long as you pick the right key for your song, you’re set, but they’re not bound to tempo, they’re not bound to arrangement, so so you really don’t have to, if you’re still maybe a little unsure of how many times you’re going to repeat a certain section or, or how short or long an arrangement is going to go or anything like that, or how slow or how fast as I was gonna go, the pads gonna support you no matter what you choose to do. So yeah, I think all you really need to do is make sure that that whatever device you’re using is just really simple for you or for someone else to use. And and that’s, that’s really about it.

Alex Enfiedjian 27:58 That’s awesome, Mike, well, Mike, tell tell our listeners where they can get or try because you’ve created a free bundle. Yeah, where can they try your pads for free? And where can they buy your pads if

Unknown Speaker 28:10 they want to buy them? Absolutely, all you need to do is go to core sound pads calm, that’s c o r e, sound pads calm. And and you can check out all of our different sounds, we have our bundle that comes with the eight different sounds, you can buy all of that in, in a standard bundle, or we do have some some extra things that we throw at it in the deluxe bundle if you choose to go that road. But But if you go over to our website at core sound pads comm you can hit the try for free button. And you can download the free sample pack, which will give you one full pad file for each of the eight different pad sounds that we have. So and I think they’re even in varying keys. So you can try, you know, maybe a couple different songs that are in different keys with the different pad sounds. But yeah, that if you’re on the fence and you’re like man pad sound kind of cool, but I don’t know if I’m going to be able to figure out how to use them or I don’t know if they’re actually going to fill my sound without being weird. or anything like that, man, just come on over download the sample pack, give it a shot. It is absolutely worth the effort just for you to see if it’s going to be the asset and the resource for your worship team that that we that we believe it is. Yeah, of course. Sound pants calm is the place to go.

Alex Enfiedjian 29:28 Awesome. Yeah. And Mike was gracious enough to give all of our listeners 20% off. If you enter w LT podcast, w lt podcast at checkout, you can get 20% off. So definitely take advantage of that. Because that that adds up that money in your pocket. It’s good for your family and for you. So, so do that too. And I’ll put links in the show notes for all that. Thanks, Mike for your time today. I so appreciate it. Well, thank you Alex. I really appreciate being on here. Thanks.

Alex Enfiedjian 30:01 Well that’s it for today. Thank you so much for listening and thanks to Mike from core sound pads for one being a partner with us, but to resourcing the church so well through his excellent pad bundles that he’s created. So check them out for sure. Again, the links are all in the show notes and you can get 20% off your purchase by entering w lt podcast at checkout w lt podcast at checkout, we’ll get you 20% off any purchase and remember, you can try them for free. So check it out, it’s worth your time. Again, thank you for listening and if this episode helped you please help us by spreading the word you can share these episodes with your friends very easily by clicking the appropriate link in the show notes. And again, please feel free to leave us a review. You can go to worship leader training comm slash review to see how to leave us a review. That’s it for now. Please feel free to visit worship leader training comm for articles resources, podcasts, reviews, and many other things for worship leaders. I will see you guys next month with another helpful episode.