We’ve highlighted several ways to play Pads and other sound beds here at Worship Tutorials, but one of the most flexible (and requested) options is to play them using a foot controller from stage. For years, I played Pads using exactly this method – it offers a ton of flexibility, and all the control is in your hands as the worship leader (your feet, actually).
You’ll need a few things to pull this off…
- Pads (or click tracks, or any sound bed really)
- A computer – I preferred a laptop, but it doesn’t have to be
- A midi foot controller – I used the Line 6 FBV Express MKII
- Ableton Live (Live Standard and Live Intro work as well)
- Cables/direct boxes to run audio from your computer to your sound board. I used a stereo 1/8 inch to dual mono 1/4 cable and then ran those into 2 direct boxes that fed the FOH board.
Ableton Live Setup
In the video above, I walk through exactly how I set up Ableton Live, including how to MIDI map each button and expression pedal, but the basic idea goes like this…
- Button 1 plays the Pad/loop and advances to the next loop. This way each time you press Button 1, it either starts the first song or plays the next song in the list.
- Button 2 stops everything (emergency kill switch!)
- The expression pedal controls the volume of the Pads channel. This allows you to fade the pads in and out using the volume pedal.
You can do much more complicated things with MIDI in Ableton, but this was a very simple setup that did not require a lot of thought while leading worship. Just press the button and go. Press again for the next song. Easy.
To really make Pads work well for transitions, you’ll want to crossfade them. This creates a seamless transition when moving from one song to the next, and it’s especially useful when changing keys. Ableton Live does not crossfade sound clips in this manner, so you’ll need to set it up manually. To get the crossfade, I put a reverb and a delay on my Pads channel. You can see and copy my exact settings using the video above, but you’ll want a long tail reverb and a delay with a good amount of feedback and sort of longer repeats.
Because this setup is so simple, you’ll need to follow a pre-determined set list. This means you can’t change the order of the songs at the last minute (unless you change the order in Ableton as well). If you wanted that kind of flexibility, it would actually be easy to do – you’d just need midi controller with more buttons. You could set one button for each song you’d be doing that day, and then just play them in any order you’d like.
If you have any questions about how this setup works or how to use it in a live environment, please ask in the comments below.