How to use ambient pads in worship

Whether you lead worship solo or with a band, pads are the secret to always having a full sound.

Pads are a type of subtle synthesizer sound that make a significant impact in setting the tone and atmosphere of worship. You can listen to an example of pads here.

You’ve probably heard these ambient and cinematic sounds in movies. They never draw much attention to themselves, but without them, most film scores or music productions would sound empty.

My friend Boomer Bate, the keyboardist for Red Rocks Worship, is a music producer and an expert at creating sounds like this for worship. He unpacked for me how he creates pads.

The hardware and software

The hardware is simple. You need a MIDI controller keyboard plugged into a laptop. The software is the real magic behind pads. Boomer uses Mainstage, a $30 app created by Apple as his Digital Audio Workstation. Within Mainstage, he runs an expensive software plugin called Omnisphere. Omnisphere costs $500. That’s where all the magic happens.

Omnisphere can produce a vast variety of synthesizer sounds. Most, if not all of the big worship bands (Hillsong, Elevation, Jesus Culture, etc.) use Omnisphere to produce their pad sounds. Crafting sounds in Omnisphere is an art in itself.

How to use pads in a tasteful way

Pads come in handy in a variety of ways during the worship service. You can play pads underneath a solo worship leader or band throughout the whole set. Pads make transitions seamless. When the rest of the band ends a song, pads can continue to sustain through the space between songs. Pads add emotional intensity behind the end of a sermon or prayer. I think there is something about ambient music that helps people focus in on what is communicated.

Boomer suggests keeping it simple when you play pads on the keyboard. Don’t venture too far away from playing the one note and five note in a key. In the key of C, that would be C and G. He likes to add the octave, and sometimes the second and fourth steps of the key. You do not want too much movement or else it will sound cluttered and mushy. Keeping it simple also allows other instruments to play with the pads without too much dissonance or clashing.

The easiest way to get started with pads in worship

If you’re in a context where you do not have a keyboardist like Boomer in your worship band, you can still use pads in worship!

All you need to do is download pre-recorded pads and play them from a device like your smartphone. No click track is necessary since pads do not have any percussive or rhythmic element to them. Just make sure you play the pads in the right key, and you’re set to go!

I want to help you get started with pads today. Click the button below, complete the form, and I’ll email you instant access to a free bundle of worship pads in all 12 keys.

Boomer made these pads using his expensive keyboard rig and software! The awesome part is you get to enjoy these sounds in worship without having to create the pads yourself or invest in the gear.

Once you download the pads, you can play them in any music player like iTunes or the music app on your phone. If your church uses ProPresenter, load them into the presentation software and link the pads with the first slide of the appropriate songs. That would be the easiest and most seamless way to run them in a worship setting.

Click the button, complete the form, and you’ll be up and running with pads in no time!