Digital Worship Methods
By Matt McCoy
A Secret Weapon
The title of this column is somewhat fitting, not just because I live “in the loop” of Chicago, but because I also live in the world of worship loops. I’ve been using Loops and MultiTracks in worship for over 9 years, with no looking back. A few weeks ago, my band and I were leading worship at a nearby local church. Afterwards, someone came up to me and said, “Wow! I’ve never heard so much sound come from just four people!” As much as I wanted to take credit for the band members and myself, I knew that our secret weapon was sitting only a few feet away on the stage behind me.
Four Humans and a Computer
It’s becoming more and more common to see a computer on stage, sitting “humbly and quietly” with its soft, soothing glow of an apple logo. But don’t be fooled by its seeming passivity – that motionless band member has become a critical part of the modern worship sound. Not only does the computer help keep everyone ‘N Sync with each other (bad joke) by providing a click track/metronome, it is also playing the role of band director by giving vocal cues and instruction to everyone in the band on where to go next in the song (Verse, 2, 3, 4!). If you’re a worship leader, you probably understand the problem this solves. We’ve all been in that train-wreck moment when you’re going to the verse, but the drummer is going to the chorus and the electric guitar is going to the solo … oh wait, they are always on the solo. Anyone with me? By using vocal cues and a click track, everyone knows where they’re collectively going next without question. This helps keep everyone tight.
However, this is just one side of the computer’s many talents. While everyone in the band is rocking out to a click track and band cues, the computer is playing back Loops and MultiTracks that enhance and supplement the sound coming from stage. For example, Loops and MultiTracks may contain sounds like shakers, tambourines, synth lead lines, or pads. Unfortunately, we can’t all have a full orchestra, percussion kit, analog synth, or mandolin every weekend at church. Also, a church may lack in the quantity or quality of available musicians. If you’re missing a keyboard player one weekend, your computer is always ready and willing to fill in. Want to add those cool delayed ‘beeps’ and ‘glitch’ noises you hear on a recording? Play a long with a Loop or MultiTrack. It’s also an easy way to add fresh and creative sounds to your worship experience.
So, How Do I Get In The Loop?
“Okay” you say, “I have a computer, but how do I get it from just browsing Facebook to becoming a key player on stage?”
The Software: You can use iTunes or any music software, but the preferred software choice among electronic worship leaders is Ableton Live. You can create your own loops and tracks in Live and then use them to perform on stage. You also can build a set list and quickly change the key or tempo of your Loops and MultiTracks. At first it may look intimidating, but once you put the “training wheels” on and go for a spin, I promise you’ll never want to stop. It’s also very affordable.
The Sounds: A few years ago, I was preparing a worship set for Willow Creek and thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a website where worship leaders could download and share worship loops and multitracks?” LoopCommunity.com was born which now provides practical resources for worship leaders around the world. If you’re brand new, get free training on how to use Ableton Live and other technology in worship. If you need a Loop or MultiTrack, search for a song and download one. If you create your own loops, upload and share your work with other worship leaders. We are a vanguard of electronic worship musicians. You can even join for free – everyone is more than willing to help you get going.
So the next time you play and someone says, “Wow, I’ve never heard so much sound come from just four people”, just tell them you’ve decided to add a fifth member to the band.
Matt McCoy is a worship leader and songwriter from Chicago, IL. He is the founder of Loop Community and an Ableton Certified Trainer.
Ableton and Loop Community have teamed up to offer you the Worship Leader Bundle. $99 for Ableton Live Intro + a 4 song loop worship set: find it here.