Archives For keys

Blog - Pads Textures Header

Do you ever feel like even with all the pieces in their place, there’s still something missing from the sound of your band? It happens. You can lock in a rhythm section and know that your lead lines are taking the spotlight, but sometimes you can just feel something missing.

Chances are what you need are Pads or Textures to fill in all of the gaps. At the risk of frustrating Jared Taylor, I’m not going to say that pads are “like the glue that holds it all together,” but I will say it’s like the water that fills in all the cracks.  If it’s a thick sound you’re going for, you’ve come to the right place.

It’s like the water that fills in the cracks.

Before we list some practical tips to remember while playing pads or textures in a band setting, I might need to show an example of what pads are.  Take a listen to this clip, (With Everything – Hillsong (Track 16)) or listen to the intro of any other Hillsong song … you’ll get the point.

A pad or texture is typically found on a synth (or in the patch bank of most keyboards) or a highly processed electric guitar, but could also occasionally come in the form of an orchestra (maybe not in the typical Sunday morning setting), choir, or loop.

Things to remember when playing the pads:

  • Your goal is not to be heard — it’s to be felt and to add thickness to the overall sound.
  • The voicings are crucial when playing chords — typically good voicings are made up of “stack 4” chords (OMITTING 3rds, and with 9ths added — or open 5ths, octaves, or single notes, depending on what the arrangement needs).
  • The attack on most pad patches on keyboards is VERY slow — the means that you’re going to typically play long sustained chords that move slowly. It is not uncommon for a pad player on the keyboard to play one static note or interval for an extended period of time (get a heavy book, put it on the pedal and go grab yourself a coffee).
  • There are a LOT of bad pad sounds on most keyboards. You have to filter through the lists to find one that doesn’t sound like a computerized string quartet — take the time to find the right patches!

Keyboard players, let’s call it like it is, you are most certainly over qualified for this role! But, never underestimate the contribution that a pad can bring to the overall sound.

Blog - Sonic Range 1

When playing together in a band context, by now, I think we would all agree that the sonic range I’m playing in (the octave I’m singing or playing my instrument in) is just as important as the rhythms I’m playing, right? Knowing this importance is one thing, but working it out in rehearsal can be very challenging and time consuming.

If there’s one instrument that runs the highest risk of eating the whole pie (100%) in the sonic plane, it’s the keyboard. The lowest note on the keyboard is an A – two semi-tones lower than the low B on a 5-string bass guitar. If your bassist is playing a 4 string, the piano has a whole 5th below the low E on the bass. No one in the band can possibly play those notes in the low A-E range except the piano player. You might think, “Great!  Sonic room for me to play without worrying about anyone else running into me.” Well, let me put it this way, if there’s a bass guitar player in your band, let them live up to their name and actually be the bass player in the band. Keyboardists, let the bassists have their range and take that left hand and bring it up the keyboard.  I know, that’s almost two whole octaves chopped off of the low end of the keyboard. There is an exception to almost every rule, but when it comes to the keyboardist’s left hand, I wouldn’t have it playing much lower than the C that is one octave below middle C. When keyboard players get their left hand away from what the bass player is playing, the sound will significantly tidy itself up and the listener will feel more depth to the overall sound.

There is an exception to almost every rule, but when it comes to the keyboardist’s left hand, I wouldn’t have it playing much lower than the C that is one octave below middle C.

Continue Reading…

Sonic Range Photo

Whoever could have guessed that musicians had to think so much when they jumped into a band context? If I’m a great player of my instrument, I should be able to step into any setting and sound good! Unfortunately, without experience as a band member, this is likely not the case.

We’ve been talking about the horizontal “rhythmic” plane (as we call it) of playing together within the 100% rule.  If you don’t know what I mean, go back and read “Playing Together as a Band: Rhythm Playing“.  We know that there is so much more to talk about in each of these areas, but for the sake of keeping everyone’s interest, let’s move onto the vertical plane of sonic ranges.

Imagine this … Continue Reading…

Rhythm Playing

Rhythm is not just for the drummers in the band.  I know that sounds obvious, but think about it — as band members, how much more of the time are we thinking about what notes we’re playing as opposed to when we’re actually playing those notes? Continue Reading…