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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.